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Summary record of the 55th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Thursday, 12 April 2001 : Commission on Human Rights, 57th session

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Economic and Social
20 April 2001
Original: ENGLISH
Fifty-seventh session
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 12 April 2001, at 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Mr. DESPOUY (Argentina)
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.01-12982 (E)
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The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
(agenda item 14) (continued) (E/CN.4/2001/5 and Add.1-5, 79-81, 82 and Add.1 and 83 and
Add.1; E/CN.4/2001/NGO/19, 20, 34, 39, 48, 58, 79, 84, 107, 111, 119, 130, 171 and 177;
E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/22, 23, 27 and Corr.1 and 28)
1. Mr. SOLARI (Argentina) said that large numbers of immigrants had been successfully
integrated into Argentine society thanks to a Constitution which provided for their equal
treatment and access to nationality and citizenship. Argentina had hosted the first South
American conference on migrants in 2000, at which the need to encourage civil society and the
media to raise public awareness of the human rights of migrants had been stressed. The
participating countries had also agreed on the importance of cooperation on migrant issues
between countries of origin and destination. Organized migration had been identified as a means
of combating both irregular migration and trafficking in human beings. Argentina had also
signed bilateral agreements with Bolivia and Peru to facilitate the regularization of migrants
from those countries. A national institute to combat discrimination, xenophobia and racism had
elaborated programmes to raise awareness of the human rights of migrants.
2. While anxious to guarantee the right of persons to enter, reside in, move in transit
through and leave Argentine territory, his Government was doing its utmost to implement
structural changes to ensure that young professionals were not forced to seek employment abroad
for socio-economic reasons. Since public opinion viewed the “brain drain” as an obstacle to the
country’s development, the Government (in cooperation with international organizations and
civil society) had brought citizens into contact with Argentinians living abroad so that they might
collaborate on professional, academic, technical and other projects of benefit to the country.
3. His delegation was committed to supporting the work of the Special Rapporteur on the
human rights of migrants.
4. Mr. ZHELGOV (Russian Federation) said that the elaboration of appropriate approaches
to resolve the problems of minorities was an ongoing concern for many States, including his
own. In some so-called “civilized” States, minorities continued to be marginalized in
decision-making processes and subjected to discrimination in the workplace and in education.
The Commission played an important role in defending minority rights, as evidenced in the
report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2001/81) and the report of the Working Group on
Minorities (E/CN.4/2001/27). It was to be hoped that the Working Group would continue its
work and devote more attention to concrete situations involving minorities.
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5. In his country, the harmonization of inter-ethnic relations was a national priority.
Comprehensive legislation - in line with international standards - guaranteed the rights of
minorities, including their participation in decision-making. The Russian Federation
comprised 177 peoples represented by over 1,000 community organizations which had been
established during the period of democratic transition. Since 1996, hundreds of autonomous
areas had been created at various levels, including one for the Roma people.
6. In order to combat nationalism and xenophobia, the emphasis was placed on preventive
measures, including special education programmes to promote tolerance. The representation of
ethnic groups in government and business was proportionally greater than their demographic
7. Legislation provided for the possibility of receiving education in a person’s mother
tongue. Instruction in schools was currently conducted in 38 languages, with some 80 languages
studied as part of the curriculum. Teachers were also being trained to work in native schools.
Most republics had passed laws providing for an additional language to be used in government
and other institutions alongside the State language. The number of regional newspapers,
journals, television and radio programmes and Internet Web sites in native languages was also on
the increase.
8. Despite recent improvements, his delegation continued to be concerned at the situation of
the Russian-speaking population in Latvia and Estonia which still failed to meet international
standards, particularly in the area of Russian-language education as reflected in the concluding
observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/15/Add.142) on the situation
in Latvia. His delegation accordingly wished to urge Latvia and Estonia to realize the rights of
minorities residing in their territories. In particular, the procedure for acquiring citizenship
should be simplified so that hundreds of thousands of permanent residents might enjoy their
political and other rights. As a first step, non-citizens should at least be allowed to participate in
elections and enjoy access to those professions currently barred to them.
9. In view of the vulnerability of minority groups, it was essential that their linguistic and
other rights should be protected in both legislation and practice. At the international and
regional levels, the relevant bodies should enhance the effectiveness of their work and promote
inter-agency cooperation. In the new century, it was vital to give renewed impetus to joint
efforts to realize minority rights.
10. Mr. BETANCOURT-RUALES (Ecuador), taking note of the report of the Special
Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (E/CN.4/2001/83), said that his delegation fully
concurred with her understanding of the legal framework of her mandate. It was to be hoped that
the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and
Members of Their Families - which his country hoped to ratify before the Commission’s
fifty-eighth session - would provide the Special Rapporteur with an additional legal reference.
His Government would do its best to ensure the success of her forthcoming visit to Ecuador.
11. Migrants had contributed positively to the formation of many States, his own included.
Ecuador, indeed, was both a host country and a destination country. As part of its efforts to
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regularize the situation of migrants and protect its own nationals abroad, his Government made
active efforts to coordinate with other States, in accordance with relevant domestic legislation
and international standards.
12. His delegation had supported all United Nations efforts to promote the human rights of
migrants. It agreed with the identification by the Special Rapporteur of broken families as a
matter requiring her particular attention. Such families increasingly encountered infringements
of their economic, social and cultural rights, particularly in developing countries which lacked
the resources to implement fully their international obligations in that regard and thus needed
international assistance.
13. His delegation wished to reiterate its willingness to cooperate with other States to further
the human rights of the millions of migrants throughout the world, and to strengthen the
Commission’s activities to that end.
14. Mr. GOPINATHAN (India) said that his country took great pride in its diversity. It was
essential to achieve the social integration of all groups, particularly minorities, who were
especially vulnerable. In the contemporary “global village”, there was a need for concerted
action by civil society and the media to promote a culture of tolerance, especially in view of the
resurgence throughout the world of various forms of exclusivism, bigotry and hatred, as well as
violence motivated by religious extremism.
15. The appropriate response was to be found in a democratic and constitutional framework
which allowed the establishment of firm foundations of equality and non-discrimination. A
culture of human rights and respect for pluralism should be promoted by Governments and given
prominence in United Nations bodies, including the relevant Commission mechanisms.
16. The Working Group on Minorities had established itself as a serious forum for the
analysis and consideration of constructive solutions to the problems of minorities. It must not,
however, be turned into an instrument of “finger-pointing”.
17. There was no single, universally applicable definition of minorities. In India, linguistic
groups encompassed all segments of society in a particular region, cutting across ethnicities and
religions, and minorities were accordingly defined principally along religious lines. Minority
rights and freedom of religion were guaranteed by the Constitution. In keeping with its secular
nature, however, no religious instruction could be provided in any institution wholly maintained
out of State funds, and no person attending an educational institution recognized by the State
could be compelled to take part in religious instruction. The Minorities Commission (established
in 1979) monitored the workings of the Constitution and examined complaints regarding
deprivation of the rights of minorities.
18. Regrettably, isolated incidents involving violence against members of minority
communities did occur, although they were generally revealed to be the handiwork of criminal
and fringe elements. The Government had repeatedly made it clear that it would not tolerate
such incidents.
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19. Lastly, he reiterated the comments made by his delegation at the Commission’s previous
session (E/CN.4/2000/SR.45, paras. 91-92), and expressed his disappointment that they had not
found a mention in the report of the representative of the Secretary-General on internally
displaced persons (E/CN.4/2001/5).
20. Ms. BIE (Norway) said it was sometimes asserted that minorities were the source of
tensions and conflicts. Her delegation was convinced, however, that all national, ethnic,
linguistic and religious groups contributed to cultural diversity and thus enriched society. The
international community must seek to achieve social stability by creating democratic systems in
which minorities could effectively enjoy their fundamental human rights.
21. The United Nations played a prominent role in promoting and protecting the rights of
minorities. The Working Group on Minorities was a useful and practical body which deserved
to develop its work further. Her delegation welcomed the Working Group’s focus on the
effective participation of minorities in decision-making and particularly appreciated its work
concerning the Roma minority in Europe.
22. The effective protection of minorities required Governments to take decisive action at
various levels so as to allow minorities to develop their characteristics. Regrettably, minorities
in Norway had in the past been subjected to an assimilation policy which was currently
considered unacceptable. A recent government paper would, however, serve as a basis for
developing a coherent minority policy. It included a thorough review of domestic legislation and
of Norway’s international obligations towards national minorities, as well as a historical review
of their relationship to the State. In particular, it discussed ways of ensuring the equal
participation of such minorities in society and the preservation of their languages and culture.
Emphasis was placed on achieving fruitful dialogue with minority representatives.
23. A government body for combating ethnic discrimination (established in 1999) monitored
the type and extent of discrimination and provided legal assistance to victims. A law was being
drafted to prohibit ethnic discrimination in accordance with the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Indeed, the elaboration of appropriate
legislation was crucial to national efforts to eradicate intolerance and discrimination.
Governments must also take the lead in combating fear and ignorance and effecting a change of
attitudes towards minorities.
24. Mr. BASSIOUNI (United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)) said that UNICEF was
working in more than 40 countries to address the needs of women and children displaced as a
result of armed conflict and natural disasters. It therefore applauded the increased focus on
internal displacement issues in recent years and had promoted the Guiding Principles on Internal
Displacement among its field staff and partners. UNICEF supported a collaborative inter-agency
response to internal displacement and had worked to ensure that the consolidated appeals process
focused on internal displacement.
25. Mr. DRAGANOV (Observer for Bulgaria) said that the National Council on Ethnic and
Demographic Issues served as a direct channel of communication between minority communities
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and the Government; its members included various deputy ministers and representatives
of 32 ethnic minorities. It was currently working on a programme for ethnic and religious
26. Turning to his Government’s efforts with respect to the Roma communities, he said that a
framework programme for the equal treatment of the Roma in Bulgarian society was being
implemented. Experts of Roma origin had been appointed to a number of ministries and district
administrations and efforts were being made to increase the number of Roma in the police force.
A number of projects on education and health care for the Roma population were being or were
about to be implemented. Not all the problems relating to the Roma community had been
resolved, however, and his delegation was accordingly looking forward to the forthcoming
World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
27. Turning to the subject of the Bulgarian national minority in the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia, he said he welcomed the fact that representatives of the minorities, including the
Bulgarian minority, were taking an active part in the process of democratic change in that
country. His Government was looking forward to a constructive dialogue with the Government
of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which could bring about positive results in the practical
realization of the rights of that minority.
28. Mr. MALEVICH (Observer for Belarus) said that his Government was taking steps to
ensure that persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities were able to
exercise their rights. The rights of minorities were protected under the Constitution and a
number of laws. Indeed, the law pertaining to citizenship of the Republic of Belarus had granted
citizenship without restriction to all persons who were permanent residents of that country
in 1991, at the time the law was passed. Belarus had thus managed to avoid the nationally or
religiously motivated conflicts that characterized so many States of the former Soviet Union. He
drew attention to a press release circulated by his delegation which provided more information
regarding his Government’s policy with respect to the rights of minorities.
29. Mr. MEJÍA SOLIS (Observer for Nicaragua) said that, while his Government was
committed to ensuring respect for the human rights of all without distinction, it was focusing its
attention on the most vulnerable groups such as the very poor, those in rural areas where access
to education, health and housing was limited and minorities, such as indigenous groups and the
disabled. It was seeking to raise the standard of living of all Nicaraguans to help stem the
outflow of migrant workers seeking a better life in other countries and had taken steps to reflect
in its policy the values of a multi-ethnic and multicultural society. It was also trying to help the
many rural inhabitants who were still suffering as a result of the war and who needed special
programmes to help their reintegration into society. In that connection, he stressed the
importance of clearing the country of anti-personnel landmines and helping to rehabilitate those
who had been disabled by such mines.
30. Mr. SUN Zhonghua (China Disabled Persons Federation), speaking also on behalf of the
United Nations Association of China and the All China Women’s Federation, said that the
situation of the disabled in China had improved considerably. The number of children with
visual, hearing or mental disabilities who were attending school had reached a historic high, the
number of persons with disabilities who were employed had risen, thanks to the establishment of
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special vocational training institutions, and the incidence of blindness had been reduced thanks
to the introduction of preventive measures such as screening of newborns and the provision of
iodized salt. In addition, public awareness of the rights and abilities of persons with disabilities
had been increased.
31. He expressed indignation at the fact that some countries were criticizing China’s human
rights record. Human rights should not be politicized nor should a double standard be applied to
such issues. The unwarranted charges levelled against developing countries, particularly his
own, had sowed distrust in the Commission and had seriously harmed the human rights
32. Recalling that 600 Falun Gong disciples, acting on the instructions of Li Hongzhi, had
committed mass suicide, he said that cults which did not register according to the law, which
demonstrated without authorization, committed suicide or murder or harmed people or society
must be banned. The Government should have banned Falun Gong much earlier. The
organizations on whose behalf he was speaking believed that those few countries which
supported Falun Gong did so simply because of their anti-China bias.
33. Ms. NKOWANE (World Young Women’s Christian Association), speaking also on
behalf of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations and Pax Christi, said that, given
that half of all migrants were women, it was necessary to encourage further research and study of
problems relating to migrant labour and women. She called upon Governments to improve the
status of migrant women by inter alia ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of
the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, granting independent legal status to
women migrants even if their residence permits were initially granted on the basis of marriage -
since immigrant women often stayed in abusive marriages for fear of having to return home if
they divorced - and making it easier for undocumented migrants to seek effective remedies for
human rights violations without fear of being summarily deported.
34. In conclusion, she requested that special emphasis be placed on gender and gender issues
with regard to migration, particularly the multiple jeopardy that occurred when gender, class,
race and ethnicity intersected.
35. Mr. ARBEZ (World Union for Progressive Judaism), after thanking the World Union for
giving him, a Genevan priest, the opportunity to address the Commission, said that it was
essential to uphold the rights of minorities and to speak out. One reason that Hitler had dared to
begin the extermination of millions of people, particularly Jews, in 1939 was that the Western
Powers had greeted the massacres of Armenians, culminating in the genocide of 1915, with
36. The West was again standing idly by while hundreds of thousands suffered at the hands
of the Islamist regime in Khartoum, while Christians were being massacred by fanatics in
Nigeria following the imposition of the shariah law on all the inhabitants of one state in that
country and while Islamic commandos destroyed churches in the Molucca islands in Indonesia
forcibly converting thousands of Christians and causing 500,000 persons to become displaced.
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A Catholic bishop and a Protestant pastor had come to Geneva the previous year to urge the
United Nations to intervene to stop the extermination of those people but there had been no
37. He wondered why neither Western politicians nor the Western media had seen fit to
report those human rights violations being perpetrated against Christian communities and why
they were applying such a double standard.
38. Mr. LITTMAN (Association for World Education) said that many members of the NGO
community were feeling increasingly vulnerable as targets for attacks by State delegates. In a
letter to the Chairperson of the Commission, dated 9 April 2001, the main representative of his
organization had written that it was crucial to oppose ad hominem attacks on NGO
representatives to the Commission whatever the reason. After referring to slavery and rape in
the Sudan and growing ethnic-religious tensions in Indonesia, he said that the situation in
the Moluccas required urgent attention from the Commission. The international community
should assist the Government of Indonesia to end the acts of savagery, depravity and criminality
in the Moluccas. The role of the Commission and of NGOs was to help Governments who found
themselves unable to deal justly with violent outbreaks of communal, ethnic or religious conflict,
and to find appropriate ways of dealing with minority issues at the first sign of tension.
39. Mr. PORRET (Association of World Citizens), referring to the link between internal
displacement and refugee flows, said he wished to highlight the plight of environmental
refugees. Even if environmental degradation did not lead to wide conflict, it could lead to
internal displacement and cross-frontier flows. Successive droughts in Africa had created such
displacement, and there was a real possibility that global warming and the consequent rise in sea
level would lead to the displacement of coastal people. While everything possible had to be
done to prevent global warming, there should be a plan of action within the United Nations
system to deal with the resultant massive displacements of people.
40. Mr. SÁNCHEZ (American Association of Jurists) said that, together with 42 other
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), his Association had sent a petition to the Bureau
calling on the Commission to adopt a resolution asserting the primacy of the right to life over the
exorbitant profits made by transnational pharmaceutical companies. The resolution should state
that the right to life was more important than intellectual property rights; should urge the
United States of America to withdraw its complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO)
against Brazil; and should appeal to the transnational pharmaceutical companies to drop their
case against South Africa.
41. Although the argument was made that protection of a patent over a long period promoted
investment in research, a large part of that investment was made by States, laboratories spent
much more on advertising than on research, the owner of a patent very rapidly earned back the
investment he had made and then made very large profits, the new knowledge acquired through
research was the result of work done by a large number of scientists and technical experts, so it
was questionable that it was the exclusive intellectual property of those who had invested the
capital, and a long-term patent led to monopoly prices that were prejudicial to consumer
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42. The Security Council should adopt a resolution declaring that all drugs for the treatment
of AIDS were in the public domain. The European Parliament had recently passed a resolution
to the effect that the European Commission and the European Council should act without delay
to recognize the right of countries affected by AIDS to import, manufacture and market drugs
without paying intellectual property rights. The Commission should make an unambiguous
statement on the subject during its current session.
43. Mr. LATTIMER (Minority Rights Group International) said that the civil war in Burundi
was politically driven and manipulated by elites seeking to capture or maintain power. Since the
signing of the Arusha peace accord in August 2000, the violence had increased and had resulted
in further large-scale displacement. The controversial regroupment policy had forcibly
contained civilians in so-called “protection sites” under the gaze of the army. Closure of the
camps was stipulated in the Arusha peace accord but the practice continued. His organization
welcomed the latest round of talks in Arusha, and recommended the permanent closure of all
regroupment camps and the supported voluntary return of Burundians who had fled the country
and of those who were internally displaced; the continued support of the international
community for the peace process through diplomatic and financial backing and peace-building
efforts; and the inclusion in the peace process of the views and interests of all sectors of society,
including the most marginalized and those disadvantaged for reasons other than ethnicity.
44. Mr. CANNY (International Catholic Migration Commission) expressed concern that
receiving countries were unwilling to join in the recent drive to ratify the International
Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their
Families, the one human rights standard that would protect the rights of large groups of people
on their own territories who were often treated as second-class citizens. The prevailing market
ideology favoured the free movement of goods but restrained the free movement of persons.
45. Migrants were becoming desperate, and desperate people did desperate things: an
increasing number were falling into the hands of traffickers and were living in forced labour and
sexual exploitation, especially women and children. His organization recommended that States
should adopt legislation criminalizing the traffickers and abrogate legislation criminalizing
victims; and that customs and police officers, as well as judges and lawyers, should receive
appropriate training in dealing with victims. States should also be encouraged to invite the
Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants to visit their countries and respond to her
urgent appeals and communications.
46. Mr. CASTILLO BARROSO (Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberanía de los
Pueblos) said that forced migrations represented 2.5 per cent of the world’s population, with the
United States of America and the countries of the European Union accounting for 25 million and
18 million persons respectively. Traffickers made an estimated US$ 30, 000 million per year.
47. In the case of Cuba, the illegal trafficking in persons orchestrated from the United States
of America through the so-called “Law of Cuban Adjustment” had claimed thousands of lives
over the past three decades, and not a single trafficker had been arrested in the United States,
although Cuba had provided abundant and precise information through government channels.
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Other migrants - from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti - undertook horror-filled
crossings to the “promised land”, whereupon they were either deported or they served as cheap
labour until being expelled.
48. Some analysts considered that, if it was to continue its economic growth over the
next 50 years, Europe would require 47.4 million migrants. Governments in Europe adopted
double standards: immigration legislation was amended to permit the legal entry of the
necessary labour force of young, single people, while denying other immigrants, especially those
with no documents, their basic rights. The Commission should condemn such criminal practices,
particularly the so-called “Law of Cuban Adjustment”, the ignominious complement of the
United States blockade of Cuba.
49. Ms. LUTHI (International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and
Racism (IMADR)), speaking also on behalf of the Steering Committee for the Global Campaign
for Ratification of the International Convention on Rights of Migrants, said she was confident
that the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and
Members of Their Families would receive the four more ratifications it needed and enter into
force during the current year. Unfortunately, that progress was matched by tragic tales from all
regions of the world of violence against and abuse of migrants as well as widespread
discrimination and exploitation, particularly in employment. There was clearly an urgent need
for the protection the Convention provided. States also needed to consider measures to
regularize long-term irregular migrants in their territories.
50. Ms. STANTON (Robert F. Kennedy Memorial) said that in the Sudan, which had the
largest displaced population in the world, as many as 150,000 persons had been newly displaced
during 2000, much of the displacement occurring because government forces were
systematically bombing civilian and humanitarian targets. In the first three weeks of
January 2001 there had been eight confirmed bomb attacks against civilian and humanitarian
sites. Moreover, the Government of the Sudan and allied militias had been launching offensives
to gain control of strategic oil-producing areas, thus causing mass population displacement.
51. The situation of internally displaced persons in Indonesia was also of great concern:
instead of intervening to stop the conflict and protecting transmigrants from Madura, the
Indonesian military was facilitating the exodus of Madurese from Kalimantan. In Aceh, camps
for internally displaced persons had been targeted for attacks by the Indonesian military because
of unsubstantiated rumours that they were used as hideouts by the Free Aceh Movement. In the
Moluccas, the humanitarian situation in the camps for internally displaced persons was
very problematic.
52. Her organization urged the Commission, with regard to the Sudan, to condemn the
bombing of civilian and humanitarian targets; to ensure adequate resources for the new
Special Rapporteur and instruct him to address the situation in the oil-producing regions; and to
encourage a mission to the Sudan by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women to
examine the specific effects of internal displacement upon women.
53. With regard to Indonesia, her organization urged the Commission to insist that the
Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons be granted full and free
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access to the regions where internal displacement was occurring and to the camps where the
internally displaced persons were housed; to instruct the Government of Indonesia to ensure that
military attacks against and intimidation of camps for internally displaced persons cease
immediately; and to remind that Government of its duty to provide internally displaced persons
with humanitarian assistance.
54. Mr. ROSSI (International Association for Religious Freedom) said that, in many States,
persons belonging to religious minorities were unable to enjoy their human rights in conditions
of full equality before the law. In Pakistan, members of minorities could vote only for
candidates put forward by their respective religions; a discrimination that had poisoned the
country’s socio-political atmosphere and contributed to the spread of sectarianism and violence.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Baha’i minority had been harassed and persecuted solely
because of its religious faith. Baha’is were still discriminated against at the social, economic and
legal levels and in education, despite some positive indications of change in the policy of the
55. In France, many respectable religious minorities, among the 172 supposedly dangerous
sects listed in the 1996 Guyard Report, were marginalized and stigmatized. Mr. Guyard himself,
had cooperated in a disinformation campaign. On television, he had baselessly accused a
spiritual movement which respected the law and human dignity of being a sect. Jehovah’s
Witnesses were regarded as a sect which threatened public order. The National Assembly had
adopted an anti-sect bill that had produced a wave of protests both inside and outside the country
because it contained proposals that could infringe upon freedom of association and religion.
56. The Commission should be more active in protecting minorities, particularly persecuted
religious minorities, by directly addressing the Governments of the countries concerned.
57. Mr. PRADHAN (Rural Reconstruction Nepal) said that for, almost a decade, more
than 100,000 refugees from Bhutan had been languishing in camps in eastern Nepal and
between 15,000 and 20,000 Bhutanese refugees were scattered in the bordering states of India.
The Bhutanese refugee problem was the creation of the Bhutan State, and the result of policies of
ethnic cleansing carried out by the Government of Bhutan against its Nepali-speaking southern
Bhutanese or Lhotshampas, who differed racially, culturally and linguistically from the ruling
Buddhist community.
58. After several years of negotiations on the repatriation of the refugees, the Government of
Bhutan had finally agreed to a field verification to determine if refugees had been Bhutanese
citizens in December 2000. While the verification, which had begun on 26 March 2001, was
welcome, the Commission should take note of a number of facts: given the size of the joint
verification team, it would take years to complete the process; the results of the verification
process were not made known to the refugees; the categorization of the verified refugees would
take a further number of years and the Government of Bhutan had not made public its
repatriation plan.
59. The continued resettlement of people from other parts of Bhutan on land belonging to the
refugees rendered doubtful the sincerity of the Government of Bhutan, which should declare a
general amnesty as a prerequisite for ensuring repatriation of all its citizens safely and securely.
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Finally, there had been no implementation of the recommendations made in the Chairmen’s
statements adopted at the 1998 and 1999 sessions of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights, calling for the involvement in the verification and repatriation
process of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and
the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
60. Ms. AVILA FONSECA (Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of
Disappeared Detainees) said that, according to the Representative of the Secretary-General on
internally displaced persons, over 25 million people across the world had been displaced as a
result of conflicts and human rights violations. In Africa, half the population had been internally
61. In Latin America, Colombia had a particularly high number of human rights violations.
Between 7 and 10 communities were forced out of their homes every month by the escalation of
the conflict or by the crop spraying and other activities under Plan Colombia. Over 308,000
people had been displaced between January and November 2000. Those displaced in previous
years still lived in dire circumstances, without employment or the minimum guarantees for
62. In the year 2000, there had been 664 reported cases of people detained or disappeared in
Colombia. Most were imprisoned without charge, so it was impossible to find them, still less to
catch those responsible. Impunity reigned. Human rights defenders and members of the families
of disappeared persons were victimized and targeted.
63. She called on the Commission to urge, in its resolution on Colombia, that displaced
persons be returned and preventive measures adopted. It should also express its profound
concern about impunity in connection with enforced disappearances, calling upon the
Government of Colombia to take decisive action to find and punish those responsible and to
enable the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to pay another visit
to Colombia.
64. Mr. FARZAN (Human Rights Advocates, Inc.) said that migrant workers and their
families currently comprised some 97 million people and their human rights were being
constantly violated. For example, in 1994 the United States of America had adopted a policy to
control the flow of illegal immigration on its southern borders, while doing very little to address
the reasons for the flow, which had led to many deaths. His organization commended the
statement by the representative of the United States that it recognized the problem and would
continue work to help the Mexican economy. Action should be taken immediately, however, to
reduce the deaths at the border.
65. In Europe, the adoption of the Schengen agreements had led to the countries concerned
severely tightening their external borders, despite their desperate need of labour to maintain their
economic standards. Many would-be migrants had died in the attempt to enter those countries.
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66. In Saudi Arabia, migrant workers were vulnerable to abuse by their employers, partly
because they had no trade unions. They were afraid to practise their religion because they could
face arrest, ill-treatment or deportation. They also had little legal protection under the criminal
justice system.
67. Thailand still had very weak laws on human trafficking. Immigration detention centres
were overcrowded and many migrants had no effective way of challenging the charge of illegal
68. Thus far, only sending nations had ratified the International Convention on the Protection
of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
69. The Commission should ask the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants to
visit troubled border regions, to develop solutions for preventing the many deaths that occurred
there, to consider measures for identifying bodies found along the borders, so that families could
be notified, and to suggest what other measures the United Nations could take towards a more
comprehensive approach to human trafficking and its prevention.
70. Mr. FATTORINI (Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples) said
that he wished to draw attention to the killings and forced displacements suffered by people of
African descent in Colombia. Even the Government acknowledged that, over the past six
months, 30 per cent of those internally displaced belonged to the Afro-Colombia community.
Perhaps the most damaging discrimination for many years lay in the very denial of their
existence. It was only after a long campaign that Afro-Colombians had been recognized as an
ethnic group and its proportion of the population officially put at 21 per cent.
71. Paramilitary groups in Colombia engaged in killing, intimidation and forced
displacement, often with the notorious participation of members of the police force. They
claimed to be seeking guerrillas, but in fact they displaced or murdered people so that they could
take over their land.
72. The Commission should, once again, send a firm and clear message to the military
regime in Myanmar. Any improvement brought about by the approach adopted by the Special
Rapporteur was to be welcomed, but minorities in that country were still subjected to persistent
discrimination. The regime should implement a ceasefire throughout the country, so that
representatives of all the minorities could embark on negotiations to democratize the country.
73. Lastly, his organization was most disappointed at the delay in the referendum process in
Western Sahara and the deterioration in the relations between the two parties. The problems in
the refugee camps and the prison camps were directly connected with the overall situation. The
referendum would be a first step to resolving a thorny issue which tarnished the new image of
the Kingdom of Morocco.
74. Mr. WEI Jingsheng (Transnational Radical Party) said that …
75. Mr. SUN Xiaobo (China), speaking on a point of order, questioned whether the speaker
truly represented the Transnational Radical Party.
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76. Mr. WEI Jingsheng (Transnational Radical Party), after establishing that he did indeed
represent that organization, said that, in China, about 100 million peasants had left the
countryside in search of work in the cities, on account of the bureaucracy, corruption, low
incomes and high taxes in the rural areas. Because the Communist party controlled most
industrial and commercial enterprises, ordinary peasants were prevented by officials and their
relatives from competing and had to depend on subsistence farming or migrate to the cities. In
the cities, they were regarded not as citizens but as illegal immigrants. The police or military
often arrested and deported them, demolishing their homes. Urban hospitals refused to treat
patients without residence permits, and such people had no means of protecting their human
rights. If they tried to organize they were violently suppressed.
77. Such actions violated not only United Nations human rights instruments but also
China’s own Constitution and legislation. China should reform its judicial and administrative
systems and guarantee respect for human rights conventions and the reformed legislation.
Law-enforcement and administrative organs should be closely supervised and fair treatment for
peasants and all other citizens guaranteed.
78. Mr. PETTERSON (Norwegian Refugee Council) said that it was of the utmost
importance that the mandate of the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally
displaced persons should be renewed and that it should receive additional financial and political
support. One of the Representative’s greatest achievements had been the development of the
Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which restated internationally recognized human
rights norms. The Commission, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the
Secretary-General had all supported the Guiding Principles and various agencies had called for
their immediate implementation.
79. Unfortunately, a small number of countries had not fully understood the Principles and
had taken a defensive stand on grounds of national sovereignty to block vital international
assistance for internally displaced persons. The Commission should take a strong stand on
ensuring adherence to the Principles. It should encourage all United Nations country and
thematic rapporteurs and the treaty bodies to widen their use of the Principles as a yardstick to
assess State behaviour.
80. While the primary responsibility for the protection of internally displaced persons lay
with the Government, the international humanitarian community should, if a Government was
unwilling or unable to meet its obligations, be given access to the persons concerned. Indeed,
Governments should enjoy the prerogatives of sovereignty only as long as they fulfilled their
international obligations to their citizens. Indeed, the international community’s active
promotion of the Guiding Principles should be seen not as a threat to sovereignty but as a way of
strengthening it.
81. Mr. KARKLINS (Latvia), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the
statement by the representative of the Russian Federation did not correspond to the conclusions
reached by international human rights organizations. The High Commissioner on National
Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had stated
in 1999 that he was fully content with Latvia’s Citizenship Law and that Latvia had implemented
all his recommendations. He had made a similar statement with regard to the Language Law.
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Moreover, the Council of Europe had recognized the compatibility of Latvia’s legislation and
practice with human rights standards and had decided to end its monitoring of the country.
82. With regard to education, he said that the Latvian State allocated funds for education
in eight minority languages. There were 373 schools with Latvian as the language of
instruction, 190 with Russian and 159 with two languages of instruction. There were
two Hebrew, one Ukrainian, one Estonian, one Lithuanian, one Belarusian and six Polish
schools, as well as Romany classes in six schools.
83. His delegation had been glad to hear that the observance of international standards was
on the agenda of the Russian delegation.
ORGANIZATION OF THE WORK OF THE SESSION (agenda item 3) (continued)
Statements in exercise of the right of reply
84. Ms. TAHIR-KHELI (United States of America) said that the Minister for Foreign
Affairs of Iraq had made a number of false statements in his address to the Commission at
its 54th meeting. Far from always giving priority to the well-being of its people, the Iraqi
Government had, over the past generation, given priority to warfare, invading its neighbours and
depriving its own citizens of the most elemental human rights. Moreover, rather than learning
from the disastrous consequences of its policies, the regime had continued to pour resources into
weaponry and its own self-preservation.
85. Indeed, the Iraqi Government had never cared about its own people but exploited their
suffering in order to increase pressure on the international community to lift the sanctions. Its
cynical offer was: “If you let us rebuild our weapons of mass destruction, we will let you feed
our people.” The Government’s refusal to admit the Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights in Iraq was further proof of the human rights violations inflicted by the regime on
its people.
86. In alluding to the 1991 comprehensive military aggression against Iraq, the Minister had
failed to recall that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait had led directly to its defeat in the Gulf war and the
controls imposed by the Security Council. Those controls remained in place for one reason only:
Iraq’s refusal to comply with them. Baghdad therefore held the key to their duration. Until it
complied, the sanctions were international law and merited the full support of all Member States.
87. In order to mitigate the impact on the Iraqi population, however, the United Nations had
mounted the oil-for-food programme which, although resisted by the regime for a number of
years, had become the largest humanitarian assistance programme in United Nations history.
The well-being of the Iraqi people had improved, precisely because the programme operated
independently of the regime.
88. Her Government was currently consulting other Member States to ensure that
United Nations controls should deprive the regime of the weaponry and military
components it sought but allow more trade between the Iraqi people and the
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international community. The successful completion of those consultations would
ultimately lead to the re-entry of a new Iraq into the community of nations.
89. Ms. GLOVER (United Kingdom) said, in reference to the statement by the Minister for
Foreign Affairs of Iraq, that the Government of Iraq’s only response to criticism of its appalling
human rights record was, typically, to try to deny or suppress the facts, despite the overwhelming
evidence of its brutal misrule.
90. Her Government totally rejected Iraq’s attempt to blame United Nations sanctions for the
humanitarian situation in Iraq. The facts showed that responsibility rested with the Iraqi regime.
For example, over US$ 4 billion of humanitarian funds for the Iraqi people lay unspent in the
United Nations Iraq Account. Moreover, Iraq had not so far ordered any medicines in 2001
under the current phase of the oil-for-food programme.
91. As for the no-fly zones, they had been set up in response to the Iraqi regime’s cruel
repression of the Kurds and Shiites. Those patrols could be ended immediately if there was no
threat to the populations that they protected. Nor would there be any need for them to respond if
Iraq stopped trying to kill the patrol aircrews.
92. Her Government called on the Government of Iraq to put an immediate end to its human
rights violations, which included arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial execution, to take
immediate steps to improve the humanitarian situation, to cooperate with the United Nations and
to allow progress on sanctions.
93. Mr. HUSSAIN (Observer for Iraq) expressed his amazement that the representatives of
the United States and the United Kingdom should have resorted to the right of reply to attack
Iraq’s human rights record, when their two Governments had been responsible for violating Iraqi
human rights for 11 years. Those two Governments alone insisted on maintaining the economic
sanctions and the embargo, as a result of which an Iraqi child died every seven minutes. As
many had pointed out, that amounted to the crime of genocide.
94. The United States and the United Kingdom continued their violations of Iraqi airspace,
spreading terror with their shelling of every kind of target, including Shiite religious centres.
The use of depleted uranium in vast quantities had also had frightening consequences, including
an increased incidence of cancer.
95. The two Governments sought to hamper the application of the food-for-oil programme in
every possible way. US$ 3.2 billion remained suspended and he noted that some of those
involved in administering the programme had resigned in protest at the inhumanity of the
two Governments’ actions.
96. The crimes committed were a cause for shame for the people of the United States and the
United Kingdom. They made much of their struggle against Nazism, but their own actions were
no better. The Iraqi people, though small and with few resources, would fight to preserve their
dignity and independence.
The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.