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Summary record of the 25th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Wednesday, 16 February 1994 : Commission on Human Rights, 50th session.

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23 February 1994
Original: ENGLISH
Fiftieth session
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 16 February 1994, at 10 a.m.
Chairman: Mr. van WULFFTEN PALTHE (Netherlands)
later: Mr. URRUTIA (Peru)
Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of
Minorities on its forty-fifth session (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.94-11061 (E)
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The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.
MINORITIES ON ITS FORTY-FIFTH SESSION (agenda item 17) (continued)
(E/CN.4/1994/2, 70 and 71 and Add.1; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/35 and E/CN.4/1993/58
and Add.1)
1. Mrs. MARKIDES (Cyprus) said that the International Year of the World’s
Indigenous People had already begun to yield concrete results. A Voluntary
Fund had been opened, and a number of Governments, interested organizations
and individuals had made contributions. The International Labour Organization
was promoting the ratification of its Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
Convention, and the situation of indigenous people had been on the agenda of
the World Conference of Human Rights. The increased awareness in the wake of
the International Year had led to the proclamation by the General Assembly of
the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
2. Heeding the call of the World Conference on Human Rights, the Working
Group on Indigenous Populations had completed the drafting of a declaration on
the rights of indigenous peoples. Her delegation expressed its appreciation
to the Working Group, and particularly to its Chairman-Rapporteur, who had
also carried out some excellent work on the protection of the cultural and
intellectual property of indigenous peoples, for its efforts on preparing the
draft text. Her delegation urged the Sub-Commission to consider the draft
declaration at its forty-sixth session and to submit it to the Commission.
3. Mr. DESSER (Austria) said that the Sub-Commission was in the forefront of
developments, having completed valuable research on such important questions
as the right to compensation for victims of human rights violations, the
independence of the judiciary and the protection against discrimination of
minorities, indigenous peoples and persons with the HIV infection or AIDS.
Its elaboration of the draft declaration on indigenous people coincided with
renewed interest in the subject. The report on possible ways and means of
facilitating the peaceful and constructive solution of problems involving
minorities (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/34 and Add.1-4), prepared by Mr. Eide, was also
most timely, given the outbreak of ethnic and minority conflicts and the
practice of ethnic cleansing that had repeatedly occurred in certain parts of
the world. His delegation also welcomed the Sub-Commission’s concern at the
impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations and its work in the field
of human rights and the environment.
4. Another aspect of the Sub-Commission’s activities related to the right to
a fair trial. Based on studies by Mr. Treat and Mr. Chernichenko and the
activities of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the elaboration of a
declaration on habeas corpus, including reference to its non-derogable nature,
had been envisaged with a view to drafting a third optional protocol to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. His delegation was
following those developments with keen interest.
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5. There was still room for improvement, however. Attention must be focused
on the relationship between human rights and the work of development agencies
and humanitarian bodies and on ways and means of ensuring the effective
implementation of existing standards. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of
Action had underlined the need for a coordinated approach within the
United Nations, and the Sub-Commission had an important role to play in that
regard. It was important to improve efficiency through a division of labour.
In close cooperation with the Commission, the Sub-Commission must continue to
review and rationalize its methods of work. The recommendations and
conclusions of the studies undertaken in the Sub-Commission must be followed
up more carefully, while restraint in the number and subject matter of studies
and in the volume of resolutions adopted would enable better use to be made of
its resources. Nevertheless, the Sub-Commission’s practice of giving expert
views on specific human rights violations in the world was still
6. His delegation welcomed the decision to study the issue of reforming the
procedure under Economic and Social Council resolution 1503 (XLVIII) in order
to streamline the Sub-Commission’s efforts and avoid duplication of work. The
confidential procedure had played a vital role in drawing international
attention to situations of gross and systematic violations of human rights in
many countries. As an expert body, the Sub-Commission must retain its ability
to respond to individual communications and to draw conclusions. It also had
an important preparatory function for the Commission and served to prevent and
remedy systematic human rights violations. The procedure in question should
therefore be strengthened.
7. Experts must remain independent of their Governments and of pressure
groups. In the forthcoming elections to the Sub-Commission, special
consideration should be given therefore to the curricula vitae of candidates
rather than to their nationality, in order to ensure that they had wide
experience in the field of human rights. Independence must also be respected
during the Sub-Commission’s work, one way of achieving that being the use of
secret ballots. His delegation also welcomed the provision, on request, of
United Nations certificates according Sub-Commission members the status of
"experts on mission", with the relevant privileges and immunities, thus giving
them further personal security and independence of action in the course of
their missions.
8. As confirmed at the World Conference on Human Rights, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) had a central role to play in the United Nations human
rights system. Their full participation in the work of the Sub-Commission was
thus indispensable.
9. Mrs. PAZ (Mexico) said that her delegation had supported the initiatives
to proclaim 1993 the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People and
to establish a permanent forum for indigenous people within the United Nations
system. The International Year had heightened awareness of the value and
diversity of the cultures of indigenous peoples and of the many problems
facing them.
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10. In that context, her delegation wished to make special mention of the
efforts of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, under its
Chairman-Rapporteur, and of the Special Rapporteur on the study of treaties,
agreements and other constructive arrangements between States and indigenous
11. Her delegation shared the view that it was time for the international
community to begin the adoption of concrete measures to fulfil its commitment
to promote respect for the human rights and legitimate aspirations of
indigenous peoples and to help overcome the adverse factors affecting their
well-being and development, such as extreme poverty, marginalization and
rejection, while ensuring strict respect for their values and traditions. To
that end, dialogue and concerted action were needed.
12. Mexico, which was one of the few States to have ratified ILO Convention
No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, had
the richest variety of indigenous groups and the largest number of indigenous
persons in the Americas. Its Constitution protected and promoted the
languages, culture, customs, resources and specific forms of social
organization of the indigenous peoples and proclaimed the integrity of their
13. Land courts and an Office of the Agrarian Counsel had been established,
while a National Commission of Integral Development and Social Justice for the
Indigenous Peoples had recently been created to focus on the needs of the
indigenous populations, coordinate activities and define policies to assist
their development by improving their social, economic, educational, cultural,
health and employment conditions and guaranteeing them the fair administration
of justice and respect for their individual and collective rights.
14. Mr. DAUFRESNE de la CHEVALERIE (France) said that the Sub-Commission was
an irreplaceable source of inspiration and information. Its initiatives had
been at the origin of some of the Commission’s most important achievements.
It was currently considering such urgent matters as the independence of the
judiciary, the question of impunity, the right to rehabilitation for
victims of human rights violations and human rights and extreme poverty.
Nevertheless, the issue of the Sub-Commission’s methods of work had become
acute, as the experts themselves were aware. At their forty-fourth session,
they had adopted as an annex to resolution 1992/8, a set of guidelines
concerning their methods of work. All that remained was for the
Sub-Commission to apply those guidelines.
15. The Secretariat was obviously no longer able to cope with the workload
resulting from the constantly increasing number of Sub-Commission studies. At
its most recent session, the Sub-Commission had had to postpone some of its
discussions until the following year so as to enable non-governmental
organizations to speak on one or other report. That, too, suggested that
rationalization was needed.
16. A number of improvements should also be noted however: the appointment
of commentators for each study, even though the principle had still to be
generalized, had already given rise to in-depth discussions on certain
subjects. The idea that only experts who were currently members of the
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Sub-Commission should carry out studies would help strengthen the coherence of
the Sub-Commission’s work. His delegation welcomed the very useful and
up-to-date list of studies completed or in progress annexed to the
Sub-Commission’s latest annual report (E/CN.4/1994/2, annex V): that was an
excellent working tool.
17. Some of the criticism levelled against the Sub-Commission was clearly
excessive. It was the Sub-Commission’s flexibility and its ability to react
to the issues of the day, to take new initiatives and to build upon the work
of the Commission that made it such an important body. The independence of
the experts was the best guarantee of that vitality. There was no question of
restricting the Sub-Commission’s mandate by fixing in advance the subjects or
situations that it could consider. Although his delegation sometimes
disagreed with the experts, it had never questioned their contribution to the
Commission’s work.
18. In examining the Sub-Commission’s report, the Commission should not
engage in recriminations, but should consider each of the proposed resolutions
and decisions carefully. Some texts might need amendment, particularly those
on contemporary forms of slavery and on the recognition of violations of human
rights as an international crime.
19. Mrs. SABHARWAL (India) said she agreed with earlier speakers that the
Sub-Commission had a unique role to play within the human rights bodies of the
United Nations, combining as it did both independence and expertise. If it
was to serve effectively as a think-tank for the Commission, however, it must
not be overburdened or diverted from its mandate.
20. The report of the Sub-Commission on its forty-fifth session
(E/CN.4/1994/2) was a further confirmation of the dynamism of that body and of
its responsiveness to existing and emerging threats to human rights. A case
in point was resolution 1993/13, adopted by consensus, in which the
Sub-Commission condemned all acts, measures and practices of terrorism in all
its forms and manifestations as gross violations of human rights. In the
discussion, many of the experts had warned of the spectre of terrorism
sweeping across the globe.
21. Terrorism which exploited religious differences assumed a particularly
malevolent aspect when it was sponsored from abroad both for territorial gains
and to undermine the secular policy of democratic Governments. Her Government
could speak from experience, since it was witnessing the use of terrorism as a
weapon of war. Externally supported terrorists and foreign mercenaries had
tortured and killed hundreds of civilians, had brutalized and raped women, had
selectively targeted politicians, human rights activists, media persons and
academicians and had grossly violated the human rights of thousands of
innocent men, women and children. Her delegation thus urged the
Sub-Commission to study in depth the phenomenon of terrorism and its impact
on human rights.
page 6
22. Her delegation commended Mr. Eide on his final report on the protection
of minorities (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/34 and Add.1-4), a valuable and timely
contribution to the understanding of the complex question of minorities at a
time when the world was witnessing ethnic and religious conflict of tragic
proportions. An essential dimension requiring serious consideration was the
aspect of legally and constitutionally mandated and entrenched discrimination,
of apartheid proportions, practised by some Governments against their own
ethnic and religious minorities.
23. Mr. MENDOZA (Observer for El Salvador) said that he wished to draw
particular attention to Sub-Commission resolution 1993/22 on the question of
the human rights of disabled persons. The resolution had been based in part
on the report of the Special Rapporteur on that question (United Nations
publication, Sales No. E.92.XIV.4), which had been distributed during the
preparatory phase of the World Conference on Human Rights and had contributed
greatly to the Conference’s consideration of that issue. His Government
particularly appreciated the humanistic approach of the report, which
affirmed that special attention must be paid to the human rights of the
disabled, and the fact that the report’s title had avoided the use of terms
with pejorative connotations.
24. Resolution 1993/22 recalled the Vienna Declaration and Programme of
Action, which reaffirmed that persons with disabilities should be guaranteed
equal opportunity through the elimination of all barriers which excluded or
restricted full participation in society. It requested the Commission on
Human Rights to take into consideration the recommendations contained in the
Special Rapporteur’s report and, particularly, to work towards the appointment
of an international ombudsman for the human rights of disabled persons. The
last recommendation was particularly apposite following the termination of the
United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons and he hoped that the Commission
would adopt a resolution to that effect.
25. Mr. KOVAL (Observer for Ukraine) said that, in response to the numerous
issues with which it had to deal, the Sub-Commission had extended its original
mandate and, consequently, the tasks entrusted to its various experts. The
Sub-Commission’s increased contribution to the work of the Commission would
require increased coordination between the two bodies, which should be based
on their respective jurisdictions. To that end, the number of issues analysed
simultaneously by the two bodies should be reduced. In that connection, he
welcomed the Sub-Commission’s decision, by its resolution 1993/4, to convene,
during its forty-sixth session, a working group to continue the study of its
methods of work.
26. He wished to reaffirm his Government’s support for draft decision No. 10
on the protection of minorities under which, if the Commission so agreed,
the Sub-Commission would consider at its next session the feasibility and
usefulness of preparing a more comprehensive programme for the prevention
of discrimination and protection of minorities.
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27. He wished to draw particular attention to Sub-Commission
resolution 1993/42 on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic,
religious and linguistic minorities, which had been adopted without a vote.
That resolution touched upon a problem which was, unfortunately, highly
topical, namely, respect for human rights in areas of armed conflict.
28. In it, the Sub-Commission appealed to all States to adopt the necessary
measures to give effect to the principles of the Declaration on the Rights of
Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
and to conclude bilateral or multilateral agreements to that end and also to
observe them for the protection of the right of minorities, in accordance with
the standards of international humanitarian law, in cases of armed conflict
which directly affected their interests. The resolution further requested
the Secretary-General to make available the resources needed to provide
monitoring, advisory assistance and financing to States in connection with
their activities related to the protection of the rights of minorities.
29. Mr. PAK Dok Hun (Observer for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
said that he wished to express his appreciation to the Sub-Commission for
focusing attention on gross violations of human rights. In that connection,
he welcomed its resolution 1993/29, in which it invited the Commission to pay
particular attention to the conclusions and recommendations contained in the
study prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the right to restitution,
compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human
rights and fundamental freedoms (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/8, para. 136).
30. Gross violations of human rights continued to be committed with
impunity because there was no likelihood of a full investigation and
disclosure of past crimes. As the Special Rapporteur had pointed out in
his report, successor Governments remained bound by the responsibility
incurred by their predecessors for wrongful acts committed by them and for
which they had not made reparation, as they were obliged to do in accordance
with the principles of State responsibility. No statutory limitations should
apply to crimes against humanity. Only when past crimes had been fully
eliminated, both legally and morally, could one speak of the rule of law
and a peaceful world.
31. He also welcomed resolution 1993/24, in which the Sub-Commission
had decided to entrust a Special Rapporteur with the task of undertaking
an in-depth study on the situation of systematic rape, sexual slavery
and slavery-like practices during wartime. Such a study would not only
restore honour and dignity to the victims but would bring hope to all
women and help to ensure a more peaceful world. In her preparatory
document (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/44), the Special Rapporteur had noted that the
international community had only recently begun to understand the long-term
emotional and physical consequences of such acts.
32. Recent information concerning women who had been forced into sexual
slavery during the Second World War confirmed that systematic rape could have
a devastating impact on its victims, which could last much longer than the
immediate horror of the act itself.
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33. The inhuman crimes committed by Japan in the past had left millions of
Asian and European victims, whose wounds were still unhealed. His delegation
had repeatedly called upon Japan to carry out an investigation of the
situation of those who had been known as "comfort women" for the Imperial
Army, and of forcibly-displaced persons, to bring those responsible to justice
and to make reparations.
34. If the international community was unable to restore the impaired honour
and dignity of the small number of survivors of that crime, it was hardly
capable of promoting and protecting the human rights of women throughout the
35. Ms. EL ETR (Observer for Egypt) said that she particularly appreciated
the efforts of the Sub-Commission to define rules for the protection of human
rights. The Sub-Commission must move beyond its academic studies and take
current realities into account in order to give full effect to the Vienna
Declaration and Programme of Action. In that connection, her delegation
endorsed Sub-Commission resolution 1993/4 whereby it had decided to convene,
during its forty-sixth session, a sessional working group to continue the
study of its methods of work. She also paid tribute to the outgoing Chairman
of the Sub-Commission for his successful efforts to rationalize that body’s
36. The recommendations and conclusions of the World Conference on Human
Rights should be taken into consideration also, particularly that concerning
the need to coordinate the activities of all the United Nations bodies
concerned with human rights to avoid duplication of effort.
37. Her Government supported the establishment by the Commission of a working
group on contemporary forms of slavery (draft resolution I) and, in that
connection, considered that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur should be
extended to permit him to complete his work.
38. Mr. AHMAD (World Muslim Congress) said that he wished to draw particular
attention to Sub-Commission resolution 1993/17 on the situation in Bosnia and
Herzegovina which, inter alia, expressed horror at the practice of ethnic
cleansing, deep disturbance regarding constitutional arrangements that
would constitute a de facto partition on ethnic and religious grounds,
and insistence that all displaced persons should be enabled to return
in peace to their homes.
39. Ethnically speaking, Muslims, Serbs and Croats all belonged to the same
southern Slav stock and spoke the same language. They were divided only by
their religions. Any partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina would in fact be
a division based on religious affiliation which, while it might make sense
to the Serbs or Croats, was not in the interests of the majority Muslim
population, which had always sought to maintain peaceful relations with both
Serbs and Croats. The Muslims found themselves caught up in a long-standing
religious struggle between the Orthodox Serbs and the Catholic Croats.
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40. The history of Bosnia did not give rise to a natural division based
on ethnic or religious lines. The territorial division of Bosnia was not
possible without resorting to large-scale evictions and extermination of
"unwanted" populations by acts which fell within the category of crimes
against humanity.
41. He thus did not favour a solution based on the enforced partition of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Such a peace plan, which would require large-scale
population transfer, had virtually no chance of working; broken into isolated
fragments, the land-locked statelet would not be viable.
42. The current situation on the ground had been created artificially as a
result of external aggression and crimes against humanity. It was unfair to
appeal to the Bosnian Muslims to support a partition of their country which
violated resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly
affirming its territorial integrity. Such a partition violated the basic
principles of justice in that it implied acceptance of genocide as a means of
acquiring territory.
43. Moreover, it was likely to create a perpetual situation of conflict:
the survival and security of the economically handicapped Muslim Bosnia would
depend on the goodwill of the other two States created by the partition. Such
goodwill would hardly be forthcoming, and the Muslim Bosnian State would then
be in serious jeopardy.
44. A plan under which neutral United Nations troops would ensure the peace
and territorial integrity of the three republics was clearly not viable.
Governments would be reluctant to commit resources to enforce solutions,
unless their own interests were involved. Moreover, it was often very
difficult to arrive at a consensus for international action. If Serb and
Croat forces were currently able to make incursions into Bosnia, it was
reasonable to assume they would be able to do the same in the future, with
equal impunity. The only possible solution was one that did not depend on
external forces for its implementation.
45. The only viable solution was for Bosnia and Herzegovina to remain a
unitary State. As a first step, the arms embargo, which only hampered Bosnian
efforts at self-defence, should be lifted. It had been argued that the
embargo did not, in fact, have any legal basis. The forces of the Government
of Bosnia must be strengthened so they could defend the territorial integrity
of their country.
46. The Sub-Commission had also adopted resolution 1993/9 on the situation in
Kosovo, which was deteriorating rapidly and deserved urgent attention. In
that resolution, the Sub-Commission condemned the measures and practices of
discrimination and the violations of the human rights of the ethnic Albanians
of Kosovo committed by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
(Serbia and Montenegro). It also called for an immediate halt to the
practices of summary executions, arbitrary detentions and the use of torture
and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
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47. Ms. SPALDING (International Association of Educators for World Peace)
said that, in his statement of 20 August 1993 to the Sub-Commission regarding
the peace process in El Salvador, the Chairman had emphasized the importance
of the Peace Agreements reached on 16 January 1992 between the Government of
El Salvador and the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional and had
stressed the need for full compliance with all the pending peace agreements.
The United Nations Press Release on the topic (HR/3496) had failed to mention
the very important matter of compliance. As the elections in El Salvador were
only a month away, she expressed her appreciation of the corrigendum
subsequently issued by the Information Service of the United Nations and
appealed to the media to exercise particular diligence with regard to such
sensitive topics.
48. Her organization had long been aware of the relationship between human
rights and the environment, particularly the link between degradation of the
natural environment and disabilities of various kinds. In that connection,
it again suggested that a system of co-rapporteurs might be of interest in
relation to items studied by both the Commission on Human Rights and the new
Commission for Sustainable Development. Such teamwork would reduce the
Secretariat services required and would help to bridge the work of the two
commissions. Pending such an arrangement, she supported draft decision No. 5,
which asked the Secretary-General to provide the Special Rapporteur on human
rights and the environment with all the assistance she might require for the
preparation of her study.
49. In 1992, the Commission on Human Rights had unanimously adopted a
resolution in which it had accepted the report of the Special Rapporteur on
human rights and disabled persons and his recommendations for mechanisms of
implementation, including the appointment of an international ombudsman.
However, action had yet to be taken on any of those recommendations. She
urged the Commission to honour its commitment.
50. Disability was a problem related to many other issues on the Commission’s
agenda, including racism, traditional practices affecting the health of women
and children, rehabilitation of victims of gross violations of human rights,
and contemporary forms of slavery. For the sake of streamlining the
Sub-Commission’s work her organization had suggested that disability should
no longer be a separate item on its agenda but should be a sub-item of item 16
entitled Promotion, protection and restoration of human rights at national,
regional and international levels. It might also be useful to place
disability under the corresponding item of the Commission’s agenda.
51. Her organization was one of the signatories of the 1994 NGO draft
resolution on the international trafficking of children’s organs. It thus
appreciated the inclusion in Sub-Commission resolution 1993/5 of a section on
removal of organs from children and endorsed its call for an investigation
into allegations related to that issue. It pledged its support to the
Sub-Commission’s Special Rapporteur appointed to update the debt bondage study
and noted that the Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery currently had a
balance of about US$ 12,000.
page 11
52. The concept of ambassadors of the arts for human rights, as contained in
draft resolution E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/L.42 that had been submitted to the
Sub-Commission but not acted upon, was an innovative way of producing a
regular source of funding for the various United Nations Voluntary Funds and
using the language of the arts to promote human rights education.
53. Mr. CONDORI (Indian Council of South America) said that the indigenous
peoples were concerned at the serious events taking place in Chiapas, Mexico,
where their brothers were suffering serious repression at the hands of the
armed forces of the Government. The insurrection was a desperate attempt to
draw the world’s attention to the serious situation of the indigenous peoples
in that region. His organization called on the Government of Mexico to
resolve the problem by negotiations, respecting the aspirations of those
people for development and the enjoyment of all human rights, and to create
the conditions for peaceful coexistence.
54. Despite the efforts of the United Nations, ILO and other international
organizations and the development assistance from Governments and the
non-governmental organizations of rich countries, the indigenous peoples of
the Americas and elsewhere in the world were living in a state of
marginalization. There was a danger everywhere that those frustrated peoples
might rise up and claim their rights as established in the international
instruments of the United Nations, the covenants and conventions ratified by
the majority of States.
55. In his own country, Bolivia, the Government had long since ratified the
International Covenants on Human Rights but the social and economic situation
of the indigenous communities remained unchanged. Persons living far from the
major urban centres lacked medical assistance, social security, plumbing and
56. Indians who reached the city were subjected to discrimination and
exploitation by the dominant classes. Indian organizations and movements
which tried to claim their rights and play an active part in political life
were frustrated in their efforts by a lack of money, education, administrative
skills and knowledge of the working of State institutions. They considered
that, for their development, they needed first of all better training that
would enable them to formulate their demands correctly, elaborate their
projects, manage their affairs and claim their legal rights effectively.
57. The Bolivian Government had passed an Act for the benefit of the
indigenous peoples of Oriente, Chaco and Amazonia. The Act did not include
the Andean peoples, but ILO Convention No. 169, ratified by Bolivia in 1991,
stated that the groups to which it applied were determined by their awareness
of their indigenous identity. That was precisely the case of the Aymara and
Quechua communities. Consequently, Bolivia should respect those provisions of
the Convention and apply them to its entire indigenous population.
58. Lastly, his organization thanked the General Assembly for having
proclaimed the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.
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59. Mr. MEZHOUD (Anti-Slavery International) said that, in the more
than 150 years of its existence, his organization had experienced only two
periods when there had been effective international anti-slavery mechanisms:
the International Slavery Bureau (1890-1914) and the League of Nations
Standing Advisory Committee of Experts on Slavery (1933-1939). The
Sub-Commission’s Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery had been
struggling for 20 years within a limited mandate consisting only of receiving
information and never seeking it.
60. The familiar image of a slave in shackles no longer adequately described
slavery’s many newer manifestations, but slavery was immutable in its effect
on the human spirit and the human mind. Many millions of people were
currently living in a state of servitude throughout the world. There were
children forced to work to the detriment of their development; there were
bonded labourers and bonded families; and there were girls and women forced
into prostitution or sold, trafficked or bartered into marriage.
61. Despite the development, in the second half of the twentieth century, of
a comprehensive body of human rights standards, monitoring bodies and human
rights organizations, slavery and servitude survived because poverty and
discrimination continued to exist. Those practices were so widespread that,
in some places, they were simply taken for granted, as being deeply rooted in
tradition and the social structure.
62. The challenge was to recognize that many millions of people throughout
the world were denied the possibility of legal recourse and, in some cases,
systematically denied the rights which other citizens took for granted, and
then to do something about it.
63. The international community had gradually become aware, through the
Working Group, of the extent of the work still to be done, particularly in
respect of trafficking, child labour and bonded labour. There were currently
two programmes of action and two special rapporteurs in the United Nations
working on child exploitation issues.
64. While recognizing the need to elaborate measures for improved action and
cooperation at the international level on issues related to the sale of
children, child prostitution and child pornography, as well as the basic
measures required for preventing and eradicating those serious problems, his
organization considered that a working group, with a strengthened mandate,
would be able to carry out that task. The existing Working Group had already
drawn up programmes of action which would, if implemented, yield results over
the short and the long term. If the political will to act was not
forthcoming, a new convention would be of no help. However, a new working
group with a stronger mandate would make those efforts more effective and
provide a strong focal point for information and action so that substantial
progress on some of the worst aspects of contemporary slavery would be
65. Mrs. SACKSTEIN (International Abolitionist Federation) said that, for
more than a century, her organization had been campaigning against one of the
most blatant forms of contemporary slavery: the traffic and sexual
exploitation of human beings for commercial purposes. In some areas, those
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efforts had met with a measure of success. Many Federation affiliates had
managed to make public opinion aware of the causes and consequences of that
affront to human dignity and some Asian and European countries had adopted
legislation to deal more effectively with sex-trade networks.
66. However, much remained to be done and her organization was grateful to
the Sub-Commission’s Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery for making
the international community aware of the situation so that positive action
could be taken. Thus, the United Nations had elaborated a programme of action
to deal with the sale of children and pornography and had appointed a Special
Rapporteur to monitor it and, over the past three years, the Commission had
been encouraging the Sub-Commission and its Working Group to recommend ways
and means of establishing effective mechanisms for the implementation of the
conventions on slavery.
67. As for draft resolution I, which would create a working group of
independent and experienced experts mandated to seek and receive information
from Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and
individuals, her organization considered that such a working group would
provide an important focal point for information and action. It thus strongly
supported the draft resolution and believed that, if there was international
support for the idea, the proposed working group would be an effective
instrument in the fight against contemporary forms of slavery.
68. Mr. ECKSTEIN (International Organization of Indigenous Resource
Development) said that indigenous peoples had a clear objective: they
insisted that their human rights be fully respected. They were not seeking a
special category of rights, but wanted their rights as peoples to be
69. There had been much discussion about recognition of the collective rights
of the world’s indigenous peoples. The argument most often heard against such
recognition was that, if those rights were recognized, they would be used by
the peoples concerned to secede from existing States and become independent.
That was an absurd and prejudicial argument since indigenous peoples were
"peoples" in every historic, scientific and legal sense. They had their own
territories, histories, languages and cultures.
70. The United Nations had already recognized that peoples and nations had
collective human rights but certain States apparently did not acknowledge that
those collective rights pertained to indigenous peoples. In other words, for
their own purposes and reasons, they were objecting to the universal
application of human rights proclaimed by the United Nations. They wanted to
divide human rights into categories: self-determination would mean one thing
for one group but would be limited in its application when indigenous peoples
claimed the same ostensibly universal right. It was to avoid that kind of
prejudicial application of human rights standards that such great emphasis had
been placed on the concepts of universality and indivisibility.
71. It had been recognized as part of the retrospective activity of the
International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples that indigenous issues
should be better integrated into the United Nations programmes and services.
The recommendation by the Vienna Conference on Human Rights that a permanent
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forum should be established in the United Nations to address indigenous issues
had merit and deserved serious consideration. As things stood, the indigenous
peoples had only limited access to the human rights machinery of the
United Nations system.
72. One of the main concerns of indigenous peoples was that they had been
excluded from all the economic benefits and wealth of their own lands and
territories. The result of that dispossession was poverty and disease. In
addressing such issues, therefore, the United Nations should not limit the
scope of its response exclusively to the human rights concerns of indigenous
peoples. The Commission had recognized the inextricable association of human
rights, economic questions and development issues and should ensure that the
indigenous peoples had full access to the health and development resources of
the Organization.
73. Mr. Urrutia (Peru) took the Chair.
74. Ms. SAJOR (Third World Movement against the Exploitation of Women) said
that many NGOs had referred to the case of the some 200,000 Asian "comfort
women". It was clear that individual victims of military sexual slavery
during the Second World War were entitled to reparations in the light of the
report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to restitution, compensation and
rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental
freedoms (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/8). Her organization thus regretted the fact that
Japanese national institutions did not provide an effective remedy for those
75. In December 1991, Korean victims of sexual slavery had gone to the Tokyo
District Court to sue the Government of Japan and the Filipino victims had
done the same in April 1993. Unfortunately, those litigations would not solve
the problem since Japanese legal procedures might require as much as 20 years
to exhaust all remedies. According to a senior conservative politician,
142,000 comfort women had died during the Second World War, many of them
having been killed or abandoned by the Japanese Imperial Forces. Even those
who managed to return home were unable to confess their plight to their
relatives out of shame.
76. The total number of the surviving victims and their relatives, who could
be identified, was extremely small. Japan would therefore profit since it
would not have to pay compensation to most of the victims or their families.
77. The main issues in the litigations were violations of international law,
including war crimes, crimes against humanity and enforced slavery. Her
organization knew of no instance of a plaintiff winning a case in a Japanese
court by invoking international human rights law. Japanese domestic court
procedures were thus not effective remedies for the victims.
78. Many NGOs had rejected the second report published by the Japanese
Government on Asian "comfort women". It had been recommended that a special
committee should be established in the Diet to carry out an official
investigation into all of the cases and resolve the issues on the basis of the
facts. However, there was no consensus among the members of the Japanese Diet
regarding the post-war disposition issue concerning "comfort women". The new
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ruling eight-party coalition might be divided in its policy. Many parties,
including the largest opposition party, might not accept any legal
responsibility regarding punishment of the persons responsible and reparations
for the individual victims.
79. It was for those reasons that the United Nations system must address that
international problem to ensure punishment of those responsible and
expeditious reparations for victims. Provision should also be made to address
the extraordinary problem of deceased victims who could not be identified.
80. Although the United Nations had established a criminal tribunal for cases
of organized rape in the former Yugoslavia, it had failed to establish one for
the Asian victims of military sexual slavery. She thus called on the
Commission to take immediate action to secure the establishment of such a
tribunal. The Japanese Government should be persuaded to submit the following
request to the Secretary-General: "Japan wishes the Secretary-General, using
his good offices, to set up an international arbitration tribunal to consider
applications against Japan from alleged individual victims". Such applicants
could be the victim or her next of kin.
81. As for the unidentifiable deceased victims of sexual slavery, her
organization thought that Japan should be invited to donate at least four
trillion yen (US$ 36 billion), or about US$ 180,000 for each deceased victim,
to the United Nations to set up a special fund to be used in proportion to the
damage caused in countries victimized by Japan’s sexual slavery crimes for the
welfare of all the women there.
82. Mr. LITTMAN (International Fellowship of Reconciliation) said, with
reference to the ever-widening gap between the activities of the
Sub-Commission and what was happening in the outside world that he wished to
draw attention to Sub-Commission resolution 1993/14 on the situation of human
rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, reflecting Commission
resolution 1993/62, and draft decision 4, proposing the appointment of a
Special Rapporteur to prepare a report on the recognition of gross and
large-scale violations of human rights as an international crime.
83. On a dozen or more occasions over the past five years, his organization
had highlighted the failure of both the Sub-Commission and the Commission to
adopt a specific resolution - or even a paragraph - to condemn the fatwa that
had targeted Salman Rushdie and the subsequent incitements to murder that had
regularly been made. That grave omission had occurred despite a request by
one of the Sub-Commission’s experts, Mrs. Claire Palley on 21 August 1992 that
the Sub-Commission should make it clear that such fatwas and the death penalty
for heresy were themselves gross violations of human rights.
84. The Government of Iran had justified its position by referring to a
declaration by the Eighteenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, which
had proclaimed the apostasy of Salman Rushdie in unambiguous terms. The
international community was thus entitled to clarification concerning the
meaning of that proclamation from the Secretary-General of the Islamic
Conference, who was scheduled to address the Commission the following day.
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85. That was even more necessary in the light of the statement by the
representative of Iran to the Sub-Commission on 17 August 1993 that the
Salman Rushdie case related not to the Government of Iran but to the whole
Muslim world.
86. In fact, Mrs. Palley’s remarks at the Sub-Commission’s forty-fourth
session had focused rather on the current Prime Minister of Pakistan,
Mrs. Benazir Bhutto who, at the time, was strongly opposing a legislative
amendment sought by Pakistan’s Shariah Court that would have made it a crime,
punishable by death, to insult the Prophet Mohammed. He once again requested,
in that connection, the representative of Pakistan to reply to his pertinent
query of 8 February 1994. There were seven pending cases in Pakistan of
Christians who had been accused of blasphemy under the penal code, one of them
being a boy of 11. His organization sought an assurance that no death
sentences would be pronounced or carried out by the Government of Pakistan and
that no law would be introduced to permit such executions.
87. A turning point in the Rushdie affair had been its explicit mention by
the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights when reviewing Iran’s
initial report in May 1993. That had been followed, in August 1993, by the
observations of the Human Rights Committee regarding Iran’s second periodic
report. The comments by the two Committees had followed an interview
published in Time International, on 24 May 1993, in which the President of the
Islamic Republic of Iran had declared that the fatwa against Salman Rushdie
had been prescribed by Islamic law that had been in existence for 1,000 years,
long before the pronouncement of the Imam.
88. The Rushdie syndrome was a direct attack on the rights of freedom of
opinion and expression. A fundamentalist wave of assassinations was currently
flooding a number of Islamic countries, in which Muslim intellectuals, writers
and journalists were all considered legitimate targets. Tragic integrist
events had also occurred in Egypt, Algeria and Turkey.
89. In November 1993, a courageous group of 100 Muslim writers and artists
had signed or contributed essays to a book entitled Pour Rushdie. They,
together with nearly 200 Iranian intellectuals and artists in exile who had
openly condemned the 1989 fatwa, had been branded heretics and become targets
also. He wondered whether Mr. Rushdie would be able to appear before the
Commission in safety to make an appeal under article 19 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or whether he would suffer the fate of
Mr. Kazem Rajavi, whose murder, in which Iranian Government services were
implicated, had twice been condemned by the Sub-Commission.
90. His organization had been astonished by the French Government’s decision
to release two Iranian citizens suspected by Lausanne judge of having
participated in the political assassination of Mr. Rajavi. The decision
contradicted a French ministerial decree ordering extradition of the suspect
to Switzerland. It had coincided, somewhat unfortunately, with
President Mitterrand’s New Year’s message referring to France’s exemplary
record in the field of human rights. He appealed to the Iranian delegation to
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bring the two suspects to Switzerland for questioning by a Swiss judge and/or
by the Commission’s Special Representative. That would provide an opportunity
for Iran to refute allegations that it was involved in a deliberate policy of
international terrorism.
91. Ms. ARBACH (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) said that
her organization welcomed the second progress report prepared by
Mrs. Ksentini, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/7). As an organization committed to peace, it wished to
draw the Commission’s attention to the impact of military activities on the
environment. In her preliminary conclusions, the Special Rapporteur stated
that environmental damage had direct effects on the enjoyment of a series of
human rights, inter alia, the rights to life, to health, to a satisfactory
standard of living, to sufficient food, to housing, to education, to work, to
culture, to development and to peace. She also stressed the vulnerability of
certain peoples and groups to ecological risks and man-made or war-related
natural disasters. The Commission should take action on the recommendations
of the Special Rapporteur and urge the various human rights bodies to consider
the environmental dimension of human rights in their respective mandates.
92. Even before the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED), her organization had been closely monitoring the effects of military
activities, war and conflict. Referring to article 3 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights on the right to life, liberty and security of
person, she stressed the interdependence of human rights, the earth and the
common ecological destiny of mankind; nowhere in the world were people
completely safe from natural disasters or man-made environmental damage.
93. Environmental abuses were aggravated by war and by the fact that the
public was largely unaware of government activities. Destruction of the
environment was a method of war, a form of "ecological terrorism", as
dramatically illustrated by the burning oil-wells in Kuwait during the Gulf
conflict. In many parts of the world, human beings were being mutilated or
dying as a result of land-mine explosions. Four million Cambodians had died
or been mutilated in land-mine explosions. Every year, 10,000 civilians
suffered the same fate.
94. Such acts not only destroyed the environment but also prevented the
economic recovery and development of war-torn countries. In Viet Nam, the use
of modern weapons to destroy the environment had triggered a prolonged
economic crisis. Chemical warfare had transformed land into deserts which
could not be cultivated or inhabited.
95. Even in time of peace, $880 billion were channelled into the military
industry every year and the production process itself diverted resources from
programmes for health, education and environmental preservation. Arms
production, weapons testing, military exercises and the establishment of
military bases and installations caused accidents, many of them quite
localized, such as the destruction of topsoil by heavy tracked vehicles or the
disruption of animal life by the sound of aircraft and gunfire. Intense noise
during aerial manoeuvres caused deafness, high blood pressure, heart attacks
and psychological disturbances in human beings and upset animals’ natural
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96. Her organization supported the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that
there should be regular consideration of the interdependence of militarism and
the environment and, in particular, the recommendation that a meeting of
experts be convened to formulate recommendations on how the right to the
environment could be incorporated into the activities of human rights bodies.
That meeting should be open to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The
right to a clean environment must be recognized as a basic human right and
included in reports on the implementation of the various international
97. Ms. SHIN (Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the
World Council of Churches) said that her organization had raised the case of
some 200,000 Asian women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial
Army before the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the
Sub-Commission and the Commission. It welcomed Sub-Commission
resolution 1993/24 appointing a Special Rapporteur, to carry out an in-depth
study on systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during
wartime (para. 1). The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women (CEDAW) had also raised the issue of slavery during wartime, when
reviewing Japan’s national report in January 1994.
98. Under the watchful eye of the Commission and the international human
rights community, Japan had finally admitted that its army had forcibly
drafted women into sexual slavery and that the victims had been subjected to
intolerable agony and pain during their captivity, and the Prime Minister of
Japan had apologized to the President of the Republic of Korea for the
Japanese system of sexual slavery during the Second World War. Since then,
however, demands for justice and for reparations to the victims had been
ignored. At best, the Japanese Government had implied that it was considering
some sort of fund in lieu of compensation.
99. Meanwhile, the surviving victims, most of whom were in their seventies,
were growing desperate. In 1993 alone, three victims in the Republic of Korea
had died, one of them from syphilis dating back to her years of sexual
slavery. Another woman, who had been scheduled to testify before the
Commission had been too ill to attend. On 7 February 1994, 11 persons from
the Republic of Korea had visited the Japanese prosecutor’s office in Tokyo in
order to file a formal complaint signed by 27 surviving victims, but their
complaint had been rejected.
100. Violence against women had become a world-wide concern, particularly
after the occurrence of organized mass rape in the former Yugoslavia. The
Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called for an effective response to
violations of women’s human rights during armed conflict. Her organization
welcomed the establishment of an international tribunal for the prosecution of
violations of international humanitarian law in the territory of the former
101. In that connection, it wished to draw the Commission’s attention to the
fact that the Batavia Military Court had punished Japanese military officers
and the private entrepreneurs involved in the sexual slavery of 38 Dutch women
by the Japanese Army, although there had been no trial whatsoever of those who
had committed war crimes against Asian women. The inaction by the Japanese
page 19
Government was in sharp contrast to the German Government’s continued
prosecution of Nazi criminals and the 1988 decision by the United States
Government to compensate American citizens of Japanese descent who had been
interned during the Second World War.
102. Her organization requested the Commission to endorse Sub-Commission
resolution 1993/24 appointing Ms. Chávez as Special Rapporteur and to urge
Japan to punish those responsible for the crimes and to pay reparations to the
victims. It was unacceptable that Japan should seek membership of the
Security Council when it was not prepared to make amends for its past.
Statements in exercise of the right of reply
103. Mr. ANGOL (Sudan), said that the statement by the International
Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty, delivered the previous day,
had targeted Muslim countries with the aim of demonstrating that Islam was an
intolerant religion, that it persecuted Christian minorities and that it
prescribed harsh punishment for those who chose to convert to Christianity.
104. Throughout history, however, Islam had been tolerant of other religions.
He reminded the Commission that the Inquisition had not been as Islamic
institution. There were sizeable Christian and other minorities in Muslim
countries who enjoyed the same rights as their fellow citizens. In the Arab
world, 15 to 20 million persons, out of a population of 160 million, were
105. The same could not be said of Europe, where the small remaining Muslim
communities were being subjected to ethnic cleansing, genocide, rape and other
atrocities. He cited the case of Bosnia and of Kosovo, where Muslim freedom
was being stifled by the Serb authorities. The International Association for
the Defence of Religious Liberty had not mentioned any of those abuses,
however. His delegation therefore wondered whether the Association truly
lived up to its name and whether it deserved its consultative status with the
Commission. As for the Association’s fictitious accusations against the
Sudan, he would not dignify them with a response.
106. Mr. BEBARS (Egypt) said that his delegation wished to refute the untrue
allegations made by the International Association for the Defence of Religious
Liberty. The Association had no inkling of the degree to which religious
tolerance prevailed in Egypt. Religion had played a major role throughout
Egyptian history and the country had long been a refuge for the persecuted.
The Egyptian people were known for their tolerance and people of many
different faiths lived side by side in the country.
107. Since 1923, the various Egyptian constitutions, and, particularly
the 1979 Constitution, had affirmed equality among the various religions the
principle of non-discrimination. Article 46 guaranteed freedom of religion
and religious practice and article 57 made religiously motivated attacks a
crime. Article 67 prescribed the penalties to be applied in such cases.
page 20
108. Change of religion was not considered a crime in Egypt. It was possible,
of course, that the exploitation of religion for illegal or disruptive
purposes, or certain acts whose repercussions went beyond the individual,
would have to be referred to the courts for a decision.
109. The State guaranteed the protection of places of worship; attacks on
them, especially terrorist attacks, were punished. As a result of the
restoration which had been in progress since 1981, there were currently 350
churches in Egypt. Resources were also needed, of course, to restore Egyptian
ruins which had deteriorated or been damaged in the 1992 earthquake. Certain
economic priorities had to be dealt with as well and resources were limited.
His Government had recently launched an appeal for financial assistance to
restore all its religious ruins.
110. His delegation was always willing to cooperate with NGOs but expected
them to show sensitivity and objectivity and not indulge in baseless
The meeting rose at 12.50 p.m.