Summary record of the 45th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Thursday, 13 April 2000 : Commission on Human Rights, 56th session
|UN Document Symbol||E/CN.4/2000/SR.45|
|Convention||Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities|
|Document Type||Summary Record|
|Subjects||Immigration Policy, Displaced Persons, Persons with Disabilities, Discrimination, Migrant Workers, Minorities, Religious Freedom, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, Ethnic and Racial Groups|
Economic and Social
1 May 2000
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 45th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 13 April 2000, at 10.00 a.m.
Chairman: Mr. SIMKHADA (Nepal)
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF CANADA
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF IMMIGRANT ABSORPTION OF ISRAEL
SPECIFIC GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS:
(a) MIGRANT WORKERS
(c) MASS EXODUSES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
(d) OTHER VULNERABLE GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS
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.
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF CANADA
1. Mr. AXWORTHY (Canada), recalling that the Charter of the United Nations was written
in the name of we the peoples, said that the Commission should encourage every part of the
Organization to view its mandate from a more people-centred perspective, with a view to
achieving universal respect for human rights. During its current monthly presidency of the
Security Council, his delegation was accordingly seeking to promote human security. The
protection of civilians had already been made an explicit part of United Nations operations in
Sierra Leone and East Timor, and child protection advisors and human rights units were
regularly involved in all peacekeeping missions.
2. It was clear, however, that the Security Council was often constrained by political
pressures. It had failed, for example, to lend its support to peace efforts in the Sudan. The
Commission on Human Rights should take a firm stand by expressing the international
communitys deep concern at the serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law
occurring as a result of the conflict there. In that connection, his Government strongly welcomed
the High Commissioners decision to investigate the possibility of establishing a human rights
field office in the Sudan.
3. To ensure that there was no impunity for human rights violations in the Sudan, any
efforts the Commission might make should also be complemented by action at other levels,
inter alia by the Bretton Woods institutions and the Inter-Governmental Authority on
Development (IGAD). Indeed, the Security Councils shortcomings underlined the importance
of strengthening other tools. His Government thus looked forward, also, to an early ratification
of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
4. In Chechnya, an independent commission of inquiry should be established, since human
security in that troubled region would not be restored without an open, inclusive and
comprehensive investigation of the allegations by all sides. In Sierra Leone, the international
community was faced with the dual challenge of addressing impunity for gross human rights
abuses and providing support for the peace accords. His own Government, for its part, had
pledged financial support for the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission in
5. Constructive dialogue with the Commission and its human rights mechanisms was vital
to the credibility of the United Nations, and was especially important when Governments denied
the existence of problems or challenged the Commissions authority to consider particular
situations. The international community must be allowed to address human rights abuses
6. The promotion of human rights required much more than public expressions of concern;
it required concrete measures to build a sustainable human rights capacity. His Government was
accordingly in the process of establishing a human security fund, namely a US$ 10 million
annual programme to help countries monitor national human rights mechanisms. Convinced of
the indivisibility of human rights and of the importance of the right to development, Canada
would continue to play a leading role in debt relief and poverty reduction for the poorest
7. All too often, people were marginalized from decision-making, denied basic essentials
and services, or became targets of hate because they spoke another language, practised a
different religion, or had a different sexual orientation. The international community must pay
greater attention to groups that were more susceptible to human rights abuses, hence the
importance of the forthcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
8. Protection of the rights of the child at the national and international levels was a key
priority on his Governments human security agenda. It looked forward in that connection to an
early entry into force of the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Together with the Foreign Minister of Ghana, he would personally be hosting a conference later
that month in Accra to catalyse initiatives on children in armed conflict in West Africa. Canada
would also be hosting an international conference on war-affected children in September of the
9. In respect of other areas of concern, his delegation was proud to have been one of the
initiators of the Declaration on human rights defenders and he urged the Commission to support
the creation of a mechanism to ensure that human rights defenders were defended when
prevented from speaking out in defence of others.
10. Although the human rights of women were firmly on the Commissions agenda, there
was still a long way to go before they were fully integrated into United Nations policy and
practice in every field of endeavour.
11. His Government remained committed to the adoption of a strong and effective
declaration on the rights of indigenous people and supported the creation of a permanent forum
for indigenous people in the United Nations. In view of its own past neglect of indigenous
issues, Canada was addressing its own situation, inter alia, through efforts to strengthen
aboriginal governance, to renew partnerships and to support more self-sufficient aboriginal
12. Indeed, the ultimate obligation for respecting human rights rested with the Member
States. Frank debate within the Commission required that countries also examine their own
national situations. Canadians attached great importance to continued membership in the
Commission and were proud of their democratic and human rights institutions, multicultural
society and traditions of peace and good governance. No State was perfect, hence the
importance of reviewing the progress achieved and identifying the challenges ahead. Such was
the role of the Commission.
13. For his own part, he had helped to make human security a cornerstone of Canadas
foreign policy. Human security depended on respect for human rights, which called for an active
and responsive Commission on Human Rights. His Government remained committed to the
objective of serving the needs of we the peoples.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF IMMIGRANT ABSORPTION OF ISRAEL
14. Mrs. TAMIR (Israel) said that Israel, which currently had a population of 6 million, had
absorbed more than a million people from all over the world in the last 10 years. The
forthcoming Passover was a reminder that, in the Jewish tradition, the entry into the land of
Israel represented both salvation and personal and political liberation. It was in that tradition that
Israel had taken the unusual step of granting automatic citizenship, along with full political and
welfare rights, to Jewish immigrants. Under the Law of Return, all Jews and their families who
applied for citizenship received equal treatment regardless of age, race, gender, state of health or
economic status. Few countries, including ones more affluent than Israel, were prepared to offer
such rights to immigrants, particularly to immigrants who were often in dire need.
15. Yet the Law of Return affected not only would-be immigrants but also Israeli citizens.
By giving priority to Jews, the Law put Palestinian citizens of Israel in an inferior position. The
policy was justified, however, firstly because Israel would acknowledge Palestinians right to
enact a similar law of return whenever the Palestinian state was established, so that the needs of
Palestinians everywhere could be met; and, secondly, because, apart from the Law of Return,
Israel aspired to treat all its citizens equally, with no privileges for Jews over non-Jews and equal
rights and responsibilities for all.
16. The Middle East was not yet able to transcend the age of nation States, but at least the
States concerned could aspire to live in peace with each other, respecting the rights of all their
citizens. Israel would not rest until that goal was attained.
SPECIFIC GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS:
(a) MIGRANT WORKERS
(c) MASS EXODUSES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
(d) OTHER VULNERABLE GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS
(agenda item 14) (E/CN.4/2000/76-79, 80 and Add.1, 81, 82, 83 and Add.1 and 2 and 138;
E/CN.4/2000/NGO/15, 22, 31, 47 and 58; E/CN.5/2000/3; A/54/303 and 348;
17. Ms. RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO (Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants),
introducing her first report (E/CN.4/2000/82), said that it was a provisional one based on
communications from Governments, previous resolutions, conclusions of the working group of
intergovernmental experts on the human rights of migrants, information from networks of
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), correspondence with migrants and the documents and
correspondence of intergovernmental bodies and agencies of the United Nations system.
18. States, international organizations and civil society had a shared responsibility for the
protection of the human rights of migrants. Her mandate necessitated cooperation among the
partners at all levels, as well as the active participation of the migrants themselves. The report
touched upon the issue of devising a working definition of a migrant, which would cover
migrants in irregular situations, victims of trafficking, and other non-nationals exposed to
19. It was a fact that the human rights of migrants were violated throughout the world and
States must take steps to empower migrants by giving them the skills and protection they needed.
It was also essential that potential migrants be provided with information on migration policies
and mechanisms, so that they might be aware of their rights and duties. Migrant women,
especially female domestic workers, were particularly susceptible to trafficking and sexual
exploitation, as were children.
20. Such considerations were reflected in her plan of action. She proposed a number of
country missions as well as the establishment of a documentation centre, which would receive
individual communications regarding violations of the human rights of migrants. Ratification of
the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their
Families should be encouraged and prominence should be given to migrant issues at the
forthcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
21. Mr. DENG (Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons),
introducing his report (E/CN.4/2000/83), said that it highlighted the progress made by the
international community in addressing the global crisis of internal displacement and underscored
the challenges that still remained in respect of the development of an effective and
comprehensive system of protection and assistance. Although the gravity of needs might differ
between regions, serious denials of protection and assistance were common to all the worlds
20 to 25 million internally displaced people. Apart from physical insecurity and persecution,
they were typically deprived of adequate shelter, food, safe water, medicine and education.
22. The causes of internal displacement were typically associated with acute crises of
national identity which resulted in a vacuum of responsibility. Although some authorities did
their best with limited resources, many Governments and non-State actors in conflict situations
lacked either the capacity or the political will to assist internally displaced persons. Such
persons had nowhere to turn but to the international community. States must meet the minimum
standards of responsibility for the security and general welfare of all persons under their
jurisdiction, or else risk external scrutiny and involvement.
23. One of the most significant accomplishments of his mandate had been the development
of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Although not binding, they were based on
existing norms of human rights and humanitarian law. He was pleased to report that they had
met with wide acceptance from the international community and the Inter-Agency Standing
Committee and that they had also aroused interest at the regional level. His office had prepared
a Handbook to assist international organizations and NGOs in applying the Principles, as well as
a Manual on Field Practice in Internal Displacement.
24. Despite the considerable progress made by the international community in developing
collaborative institutional responses to crises, the internally displaced remained in an anomalous
situation. His own role, was primarily catalytic, one example being his recent mission to
Burundi to engage in dialogue with the Government on the issue of forced relocation
(regroupement), and to urge dismantling of the camps. The mission had made considerable
progress towards that objective. At the request of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, he would
also be undertaking a mission to Angola as a follow up to her visit. Resources for that purpose
were urgently required.
25. Country missions provided the litmus test for the effectiveness of international
collaboration in bringing relief to internally displaced persons. Thus far, 16 such missions had
been undertaken; and the report also dealt with future missions. Unless such visits resulted in a
visible improvement of conditions, however, they only raised hopes which, being dashed, could
degenerate into despair and loss of faith in the United Nations and the international community.
26. Mr. LINDQVIST (Special Rapporteur on disability of the Commission for Social
Development), presenting his report (E/CN.5/2000/3), said that the United Nations Standard
Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities were being widely used
by Governments and NGOs. There had been improvements in policy development in many
countries. Yet, for the vast majority of the more than 500 million people in the world with
disabilities, living conditions were still bad. That applied particularly to women, children and
those with developmental and psychiatric disabilities.
27. In his renewed mandate, he would further develop his proposals for integrating
permanent monitoring mechanisms into the Standard Rules, address the shortcomings in the text
of the Rules and enhance the involvement of United Nations agencies, inter alia, in their
28. With regard to human rights and disability, he thought that the adoption of Commission
on Human Rights resolution 1998/31 had been an excellent beginning. The question was how to
ensure that the important issues were covered in the various monitoring and reporting processes
and indeed whether the existing system was an adequate one. If the system needed developing,
he wondered whether it would be best to issue guidelines in the form of general comments, to
elaborate additional protocols to the main instruments, or to draft a special convention on the
rights of persons with disabilities. The establishment of a post of disability ombudsman in the
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or, alternatively, a temporary
position of special rapporteur was also being discussed among the disability organizations.
29. The question of a convention represented a crossroads, and the Commission would need
to consider the various options available. At any rate, it was important to continue with a broad
debate on disability and human rights, perhaps in the form of a special dialogue at the
Commissions fifty-seventh session, or an international conference. Whatever form of action the
Commission chose, he was ready to assist.
30. Mr. CYPRIAN (Pakistan) said that his countrys Constitution affirmed the individuals
freedom to profess and practise his or her religion. Indeed, the Chief Executive of Pakistan had
appointed him, a Roman Catholic, Federal Minister for Minorities, thereby demonstrating a
commitment to the tolerance taught by Islam and to respect for minority rights. Churches and
religious schools of all denominations were free to operate and all religions were practised
openly. The Government gave a high priority to interfaith understanding and the eradication of
all forms of discrimination.
31. On the question of Pakistans Blasphemy Law, he said that its purpose was to preserve
harmony by discouraging sacrilege by followers of one faith against the prophets or holy places
of another. All the much-publicized cases apparently arising from the Law had proved to be
abuses of the Law to settle personal vendettas. His Government had taken administrative
measures to eliminate such abuses and no such cases had been reported since it took office.
32. As part of the plan for the devolution of power, seats in elected bodies at various levels
were reserved for minority groups and, more specifically, also for women from minority groups.
In that way the underprivileged and minorities would be empowered and involved in public life.
33. The Government had organized a Pakistan Convention on Human Rights and Human
Dignity, which was to be held shortly in Islamabad. There, a working group made up of
representatives of minorities would plan courses of action for the Government in the areas of the
protection and promotion of minority rights and welfare. Pakistan was thus working for equal
opportunities and a harmonious and tolerant society in which all its citizens could enjoy their
34. Ms. RUBIN (United States of America) said that to exclude people rather than accept
their differences was to strip them of their self-respect - to deny them their dignity. Every day,
gays and lesbians throughout the world - including the United States - faced discrimination and
even death. Nothing in international law justified such persecution. She paid tribute to the
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who had highlighted
violations of the right to life on the basis of sexual orientation.
35. A number of countries deserved recognition for their lead in outlawing such
discrimination, from the Nordic countries to South Africa, Ecuador to New Zealand. In the
United States, federal civilian employees were protected by Executive Order from discrimination
on the basis of sexual orientation, and fear of persecution for sexual orientation had been
recognized in some cases as grounds for granting asylum.
36. Dignity should likewise be a consideration in the promotion and protection of the rights
of other groups such as older people, children sold into debt bondage or sexual slavery, and
women coping with domestic violence. Perhaps the most vulnerable were those with mental
disabilities, including the mentally ill, all too often treated as outcasts rather than patients.
Mental illness was a medical problem, not a character flaw, and needed to be talked about as
openly as other health issues.
37. Mr. FERRER RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that discrimination against migrants was one of
the worst forms of contemporary racism. It was regrettable that the International Convention on
the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families had still not
received the 20 ratifications required for it to enter into force. Of even greater concern was the
fact that not one of the developed countries which were hosts to tens of millions of migrant
workers had signed the Convention.
38. The translation of xenophobic discourse into anti-immigration legislation, particularly in
the United States, deserved the opprobrium of the international community. There were
10,000 officials deployed along the southern border of the United States - three times as many as
in 1994 - and immigrants were forced to use dangerous desert or mountain crossings. In
January 2000 alone, 63 people had died. The repressive nature of those operations was
demonstrated by the fact that, in that same month, the Immigration and Naturalization Service
had employed more armed agents than any other federal agency.
39. At the same time, a recent United States Government report had revealed
that 50,000 women and children a year were taken to the United States to work in conditions
of slavery, including sexual slavery. The authorities had not taken action against such trafficking
rings, for current legislation was incapable of addressing the problem.
40. Whereas Cuba, in order to ensure safe emigration for those who desired to leave, had
signed a number of migration agreements with the United States, the United States itself had
in 1996 passed an Act granting immediate legal residence and employment status to any Cuban
who arrived on United States soil by any means whatsoever, including illegal or violent means.
That Act encouraged trafficking operations from United States territory, yet no traffickers had
been brought to book. His Government asked the United States Government to prosecute such
traffickers and also to accept Cubas offer to extradite 60 traffickers detained in Cuba for
offences committed mainly on United States territory.
41. Lastly, he called for greater attention to be paid by the international community to the
problem of the Roma in the Czech Republic. They had been compelled to seek asylum in
increasing numbers in other European countries as a result of a trend towards apartheid-like
42. Mr. LOUM (Senegal) said that migrant workers were subject to numerous human rights
violations, despite the many initiatives and international instruments designed to protect them.
Such initiatives could succeed only if there was a universal desire to recognize the right of
migrants to peace, security and dignity. The growing number of female migrant workers and the
fact that migrants were more vulnerable to trafficking in persons, prostitution and crime
demanded concerted action. The difficulty of finding a universally acceptable definition of the
concept of a migrant was no justification for denying the inalienable right of human beings,
whether nationals or non-nationals, to a peaceful existence.
43. His Government recognized that each State had the sovereign right to define its own
immigration policy but it also believed that the time had come to adopt an approach that would
end migrants marginalization, social exclusion and ill-treatment. The problem must be
addressed at the national, regional and international levels and required vigilance, courage and
self-sacrifice in the face of racist and xenophobic beliefs. It was to be hoped that the
forthcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
Intolerance would adopt some important decisions on the issue. His own delegation would work
tirelessly to promote the ideal of justice, equity and solidarity.
44. Mr. GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador), having noted with satisfaction the
appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said that his Government
attached great importance to the issue of migrants and was convinced of the importance of the
role played by the international community, particularly the Commission on Human Rights, in
the protection and promotion of the human rights of migrants and members of their families.
45. In its programme of work for 1999-2004 entitled the New Alliance, it focused on the
need more actively to promote the rights of migrant workers and their families, pursuant to the
domestic legislation in force, the relevant international conventions and United Nations system
resolutions. Legislation was currently being updated with a view to consolidating all the various
factors in a single instrument. Consideration was being given to the possibility of classifying
immigrants, with a view to meeting their specific needs and requirements.
46. Steps were being taken to accelerate the process of ratification of the International
Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their
Families. In February 2000, El Salvador had hosted an international seminar on migrant women
and children, which had been attended by representatives of all 11 members of the Puebla
Process, NGOs and representatives of civil society. The main aim of the seminar had been to
discuss the situation of migrant women and children, in Central America in particular, and
possible actions to benefit those social groups. The Government was currently considering the
establishment of a department for the defence of emigrant workers rights, members of which
would be assigned to Salvadoran diplomatic missions with a view to assisting Salvadorans
47. Mr. RODRÍGUEZ CEDEÑO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and
Caribbean Group, reminded the Commission of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the
human rights of migrants, as set out in resolution 1999/44, and the request contained in that
resolution to all Governments to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur. Migrants were a
highly vulnerable group which merited the special attention of the international community and
the Commission. The human rights of migrant workers were not guaranteed, and some States
had even passed legislation restricting their enjoyment of the most basic rights. International
migration was a complex and growing phenomenon involving nearly every country in the world,
which would only increase with globalization and open markets. There were currently more than
120 million migrants, some 40 per cent of whom were illegal immigrants. The States in the
Group he was representing had extensive experience of migration, and devoted particular
attention to the situation and human rights of migrants.
48. The Declaration of the fifth Regional Conference on Migration, within the context of the
Puebla Process, had condemned violations of the human rights of migrants, regardless of their
immigration status, and reaffirmed the commitment of participants to combat hostile attitudes
towards and discrimination and abuse against migrants as well as criminal activity related to
traffic in migrants. In July 1999, 11 South American countries had signed the Lima Declaration
stating that the rights of migrants were a basic concern of the countries in the region.
49. The countries he was representing were particularly concerned about the issue of family
reunification: the situation of migrant workers being severely aggravated when they could not
have their family members with them. He appealed to States hosting large numbers of migrant
workers to take the steps necessary to guarantee family reunification for migrant workers and
enable them to enjoy the right to be with their families. He hoped that the forthcoming World
Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance would
consider the issue of migration.
50. An important recent development for the region had been the Advisory Opinion of the
Interamerican Court of Human Rights confirming the validity and applicability of article 36 of
the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. That Opinion could help to provide improved
protection for the human rights of millions of migrants. He appealed to all States, whether or not
they were parties to the Vienna Convention, to examine the Courts ruling and to abide by the
basic principle it embodied.
51. The Group he represented recognized the efforts made by States that had taken measures
to improve the economic, social, cultural and political conditions of migrants. It had also noted
with satisfaction the multilateral initiatives designed to protect the human rights of that
vulnerable group, including the resolutions adopted by the Commission. It welcomed the first
report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (E/CN.4/2000/82),
noted her plan of action and recommendations, and was following her work with interest. The
Group supported the establishment of a mechanism for the promotion and protection of the
human rights of migrants, and hoped that the Commission would adopt a resolution on the
subject by consensus.
52. Mr. RODRÍGUEZ CEDEÑO (Venezuela) said that his Government recognized the
important and enriching contribution which migrants had made to the country. A large
proportion of the population was of immigrant origin, and the different races, nationalities and
cultures were well integrated into Venezuelan society. The Constitution guaranteed equal human
rights for Venezuelans and the nationals of other countries. Under the new Constitution, dual
nationality was permitted in recognition of the links of many citizens with other countries.
Further measures were being adopted to promote an even greater integration of migrants and to
ease restrictions on visas and work permits for migrants and their families.
53. His Government hoped that other States would treat migrants of Venezuelan origin
equally well and was endeavouring to conclude bilateral and regional agreements on the topic.
Host countries did not have sole responsibility for the protection of the human rights of migrants.
The countries through which a migrant passed on his way to his ultimate destination also had
responsibilities. Bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation, supported by the international
community, was therefore essential. He noted with satisfaction, therefore, the Special
Rapporteurs intention to focus on cooperation and adopt a holistic approach to the issue.
54. Venezuela subscribed to the principle of international protection for internally displaced
persons, which was supported by the international community. It had hosted, and provided all
possible humanitarian assistance for, various groups of displaced persons in transit from
Colombia. Subsequent to that experience, his Government had attempted to establish flexible
and efficient mechanisms to assist such persons. As the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) had recognized, his Government had always allowed her representatives to
visit border areas used by flows of Colombian displaced persons in transit.
55. Mr. REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Colombia), speaking on a point of order, asked whether it
was procedurally correct for the representative of Venezuela to have made a statement on behalf
of the Latin American and Caribbean Group and then to have continued immediately with a
statement on behalf of his country alone.
56. Mrs. IZE-CHARRIN (Secretary of the Commission) said that two options were available
to a delegation speaking on behalf of a group of countries and also on its own behalf: it could
request two separate entries on the speakers list or - as the Venezuelan delegation had done - it
could ask that its own statement should follow immediately after the group statement.
57. Mr. GUILLEN BEKER (Peru), having endorsed the statement by the representative of
Venezuela on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, said that, in his report
(E/CN.4/2000/83), the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons
had rightly stated that protecting and assisting persons who remained within the borders of their
own State was a sensitive and challenging issue, for which no easy and ready-made international
strategies existed. Clearly-defined mechanisms existed for the protection of refugees but there
was no comparable legal and institutional regime applicable to the 25 million displaced persons.
58. The formulation of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
(E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2) had therefore been essential. They established that, while primary
responsibility for the provision of humanitarian assistance lay with the national authorities,
international humanitarian organizations and other appropriate actors had the right to offer their
services, offers that should not be regarded as an unfriendly act or an interference in a States
internal affairs, particularly when the authorities concerned were unable or unwilling to provide
the required assistance. It was essential that the United Nations should lay down clear guidelines
that recognized both the right to provide humanitarian assistance and respected State
59. A number of the issues raised by internal displacement needed special consideration, one
of them being that of internal displacement in areas not under the control of a Government.
Because human rights legislation applied only to States, internally displaced persons lacked
adequate protection in situations involving internal disturbances when human rights violations
were committed by non-State agents.
60. A further important issue was the situation of displaced women and children. In his
countrys experience, a very high percentage of internally displaced persons were women and
children who needed special attention. He was gratified by the Special Rapporteurs
acknowledgement of the action to improve the situation of displaced persons in Peru, and
reaffirmed his delegations support for the Special Rapporteurs work.
61. Mr. NEGRIN MUÑOZ (Mexico), having associated his delegation with the statement
made by the representative of Venezuela on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group,
said that, while States had the sovereign right to define their own policies with regard to
migrants, they also had an obligation to guarantee to individuals under their jurisdiction the basic
rights recognized by the international human rights instruments. His delegation was thus very
concerned at the growing number of acts of violence against migrants and the increasing traffic
in illegal migrants.
62. He wished to underline three aspects of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the
human rights of migrants: the duty to request from Governments information on violations of
the human rights of migrants, the duty to request and receive information from migrants
themselves and the duty to visit countries where the human rights of migrants were at risk. He
welcomed the Special Rapporteurs plan of action and recommendations, recognizing that they
complemented the aspects of her mandate to which he had already referred, which were also
recognized in General Assembly resolution 54/166.
63. His delegation intended to sponsor a draft resolution on the human rights of migrants
based on the principles of resolution 1999/44 and incorporating elements of General Assembly
resolution 54/166. In response to a request from the Steering Committee of the Global
Campaign for Ratification of the International Convention, supported by 51 NGOs, his
delegation had incorporated in the draft resolution a paragraph recommending that 18 December
should be declared international migrants day. Such a day would help to increase awareness of
the need to promote and protect the rights of that vulnerable group. His delegation would also
present a second draft resolution appealing to States to ratify the International Convention on the
Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
64. Mr. LI Baodong (China) said that his was a unified, multi-ethnic country, with 55 ethnic
minorities constituting 8.98 per cent of the population. It was government policy to treat all
minorities as equals; indeed, minorities had some exclusive rights of their own. The latest
sessions of the National Peoples Congress and the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative
Conference had had a higher proportion of ethnic minorities than existed in the country at large.
65. There were autonomous governments, dealing with economic affairs, education, culture,
science and technology, in areas where minorities were concentrated. There were 5 autonomous
regions, over 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties. The Chairman or
Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Congress of an autonomous area had to belong to the minority
concerned. The autonomous governments were permitted to be flexible in implementing
decisions from higher government organs that they deemed inappropriate to their areas.
66. Minority languages had equal status in courts of law. The religious beliefs, customs and
languages of minorities were legally protected. The policy of freedom of belief was
demonstrated by the fact that there were over 18 million Muslims and over 30,000 mosques in
the country; in Xinjiang alone, there were 20,000 mosques and 8.1 million Muslims,
or 56.3 per cent of the total population. In Tibet there were 1,700 Buddhist sites and
46,000 resident monks and nuns.
67. Autonomous regions were supported with capital and technology for economic
development and social progress. In Tibet, for example, the Government allocated Y3 billion a
year. In 1999, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Tibetan Autonomous Region had
amounted to Y10.3 billion, an increase of 9.1 per cent, giving the region a higher than average
68. Governments were duty-bound to take steps to ensure the freedom of their ethnic
minorities, but different histories and stages of development should be taken into account. While
internationally recognized human rights norms should be respected, therefore, States should
adopt the measures appropriate to their countries. The issue of ethnic minorities was always
complex and sensitive. States should therefore cooperate with one another. Splitting sovereign
States, or embarking on armed intervention in another country on the pretext of aiding ethnic
minorities, was quite unacceptable.
69. Instead of politicizing minority rights and employing double standards, the United States
of America and Western European countries should put more effort into protecting minority
rights in their own countries. In the United States, only 15.3 per cent of whites lived below the
poverty line, whereas the corresponding percentages for Mexican Americans and blacks
were 45.7 and 42.5. White supremacist organizations opposed blacks, Jews and Asians; there
had been terrible killings. Migrant workers rights were violated in many European countries.
They should therefore discard their arrogant and prejudiced attitudes and resolve to take practical
measures to defend the rights of their minorities.
70. Mr. GUSEV (Russian Federation) said that the problem of minorities was too acute to be
subjected to pious platitudes. Too many humiliations, wars and sufferings had been brought
about by lack of respect for other peoples beliefs or cultures. A range of international
instruments, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, emphasized that all
were born equal in dignity and rights. The Secretary-Generals report (E/CN.4/2000/79) and the
report of the Working Group on Minorities (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1999/21) showed that real progress
had been made in implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National
or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. Indeed, the Working Groups own efforts had
become a significant element in establishing universally accepted standards for promoting
minority rights. Its scope should be extended to educating NGOs on how to protect minority
rights. The proposal that the Working Group should inspect countries where there was cause for
concern should be implemented.
71. His delegation called for increased international cooperation on minority rights. In
Russia, much was being done at the national level, as might be expected in a country comprising
over 170 peoples belonging to over 60 religious denominations. The Government had lately
been concerned with two related issues: the need to stand up to aggressive nationalism and
extremism and, at the same time, to encourage minorities to cultivate their own identity and
participate in decision-making. In that context, he drew attention to the adoption two weeks
previously of the Federal Programme for the formation of conditions of tolerance and
understanding and the prevention of extremism in Russian society and the adoption in
January 2000 of the Concept on opposing political and religious extremism.
72. He drew attention to the increasing problems suffered by Russians in nearly all the
countries of the former Soviet Union, particularly in Latvia and Estonia. In the former, there was
a situation of mass statelessness: in the heart of Europe, almost a million people belonging to
ethnic minorities were denied citizenship. At the current rate of naturalization, it would take
50 years to extend citizenship to what amounted to a third of the population. The authorities
were clearly unwilling to resolve the problem. Only a week earlier, the Latvian Parliament had
rejected a proposal to give non-citizens the right to participate in local government elections,
as recommended by international experts. The authorities paid lip service to such
recommendations, but there were no moves towards integration and the Russian-speaking
population continued to suffer discrimination. Human rights defenders who drew attention to the
situation were persecuted.
73. In Estonia, some improvements had occurred but the situation of minorities - not only
Russians - failed to meet international standards, as pointed out not only by local human rights
defenders but in the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination (CERD/C/56/Misc.40/Rev.3). The Committee had noted the effects of not
granting citizenship and having up to 10 categories of resident who did not enjoy equal political,
social or economic rights. The problem was exacerbated by the parlous situation of
Russian-language education. It was also appalling that war pensioners, who had lived in Estonia
for the past 40 to 50 years, did not have the right to a regular income, while the situation of
widows of members of the armed forces was seen as constituting a threat to the security of the
74. It was surprising that the international community - and especially the European Union,
which Estonia and Latvia aspired to join - had failed to react to the dangerous trends in those
countries. There seemed to be a reluctance to see the reality for what it was. He hoped that it
could not be that Russians were considered second-class people. It was high time that the
international organizations explained in simple terms to the authorities in Latvia and Estonia that
human rights must be observed.
75. Mr. MAJDI (Morocco) said that post-war immigration had started because of a labour
shortage in Europe and had increased in tandem with economic growth and decolonization. The
authorities had had an open-door policy, since immigrant workers benefited the labour market
and relieved social pressures. That policy had, however, ended in the 1970s and immigrants had
then been encouraged to return home and accused of being responsible for all the ills in their
adopted societies. The issue had been taken up by some right-wing parties, which sought to feed
the prejudices of the electorate. Such attitudes had led to acts of aggression against innocent
people. Aggressors even felt that, in abusing an immigrant, they were performing a civic duty.
As often as not, the authorities turned a blind eye.
76. It required only one isolated act by an immigrant - or one attributed to him - to set off a
wave of hatred against a whole community. In February 2000, for example, a mentally
unbalanced person of Moroccan origin had, most regrettably, killed a Spanish woman. That had
sparked off three days of violence in several towns in southern Spain directed against immigrants
from Morocco and other African countries by crowds shouting racist slogans and destroying
foreign cars and shops. The Spanish Government had condemned the incident and undertaken to
put an end to the social and occupational exclusion of Moroccan workers. His Government
trusted that it would stand by its commitments and ensure that the Moroccan community was not
again made the scapegoat for domestic political difficulties.
77. Despite useful measures taken in some receiving countries, there was still legal, social
and political inequality. Xenophobia and racism continued to increase and discrimination
persisted. Various liberal resolutions and recommendations of the European Parliament had not
been implemented, while a number of repressive provisions on immigration had been adopted.
The entry into force of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All
Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families seemed farther away than ever. He urged
States to adopt a more positive approach to the matter.
78. Mr. FERRER (Philippines) said that many of the 6 million Filipinos living in almost all
the countries of the world had been subjected to violations of their human rights. Some had
salaries delayed or withheld. Some were subjected to physical, mental or emotional abuse.
Some were asked to do work not mentioned in their contracts. Some were forced to surrender
their passports to their employers. Some were sold into slavery or killed or persecuted for their
religious beliefs. His country thus had a strong stake in the implementation of the relevant
protection measures and called upon all States to ratify or accede to the Convention. His
delegation welcomed the first report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
(E/CN.4/2000/82) and the Secretary-Generals report (E/CN.4/2000/76). His delegation would
again be introducing the draft resolution on violence against women migrant workers and
sponsoring the draft resolution on the human rights of migrants.
79. Migration was a factor in the incidence of trafficking in persons. There was thus a need
to coordinate and even integrate efforts within the United Nations system to prevent the
operation of syndicates and transnational organized crime. The machinery for such coordination
existed. There should also, however, be an integrated approach at the national, regional and
international levels. His Government was carrying out with vigour its mandate under the
1995 Migrant Workers and Filipinos Overseas Act. An office within the Department of Foreign
Affairs monitored the situation of, provided legal assistance to and promoted the welfare of
Filipino workers worldwide. His delegation had also participated in international symposia and
consultations on migration. At the International Migration Policy and Law Course, Philippines
interests on issues relating to migration as a global phenomenon had been pursued. Urgent
means must be found to strengthen the protection mechanisms accorded to persons working
80. Mr. GRIBBEN (United States of America) said that there were upwards
of 4 million internally displaced persons in the Sudan, more than in any other country of the
world. Of those, 40 per cent lived around Khartoum. Although there had been a remarkable
improvement in the camps there over the past four years, the number of displaced persons in the
country continued to rise. Adding to the numbers were the thousands of residents forcibly
removed by the Government from a 50-km area on either side of the pipeline running from the
southern Sudan to the Red Sea.
81. The fate of those internally displaced persons - as of those in the Congo, Kosovo,
Indonesia and the Caucasus region of Russia - was a source of considerable concern to his
Government. Their human rights should be addressed by the United Nations and the
international community. One way to do so would be to adopt the recommendations of the
Secretary-Generals Representative on internally displaced persons, (E/CN.4/2000/83 and
82. The Commission should also focus on the human rights violations that had caused
destruction and disruption within the Sudan. As United States Special Envoy to the Sudan, in
meetings with the President, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and several high-level officials, he
had requested that the Government should halt its indiscriminate bombing in the south. On each
occasion, he had been told that the targets were military. So far there had been no confirmation
that any military targets had been hit. Many civilians, however, had been killed and terrorized.
One town in southern Sudan, Lui, had been bombed on four separate occasions in March 2000
alone and once its hospital had been bombed. That could be no accident. In another case
14 children had been killed by a bomb on a school in the Nuba mountains. Yet, despite an
apology by the Permanent Representative of the Sudan in Geneva, the bombing continued.
83. To its credit, the Government had established a Committee on the Eradication of the
Abduction of Women and Children. Although 800 seized people had been identified, those
responsible had not been prosecuted and so there was no deterrent against continuing the
practice. The High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation
of human rights in the Sudan had both noted that slavery persisted.
84. His Government called on the Government of the Sudan to halt immediately and
unconditionally all aerial bombardments in the south of the country. As an initial step, he urged
the Government to suspend its bombing campaign during the Easter week celebrations, when
large crowds were expected to gather. Such a gesture would avoid a potentially significant loss
of life among the countrys ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
85. Mr. GOPINATHAN (India) said that, to make a nation cohesive, the integration of all
groups in society was essential. Special attention should therefore be paid to all vulnerable
sections of society, particularly minorities. Understanding was needed more than ever before.
Concerted action should be taken to promote a culture of tolerance, both nationally and
internationally, which was best done through dialogue and empathy. The recrudescence of
various forms of bigotry and hatred, aggressive nationalism and narrow chauvinism, was
worrying. They carried with them the danger of alienation, leading to militancy and violence.
86. The appropriate response was to be found within a democratic framework, which allowed
the establishment of firm foundations of equality and non-discrimination. As an adjunct, a
culture of human rights and respect for pluralism should be promoted. Those values should be
given a prominent place in the OHCHR work programme and the relevant Commission
mechanisms. His delegation was sponsoring a draft resolution entitled Tolerance and pluralism
as indivisible elements in the promotion and protection of human rights and hoped that it would
command overwhelming support.
87. He commended the work of the Working Group on Minorities, which had established
itself as a serious forum for the analysis and consideration of constructive solutions to the
problems of minorities.
88. There was no single, universally applicable definition of minorities. Linguistic groups,
for example, encompassed all segments of society in a particular region, cutting across
ethnicities and religions. In India, therefore, minorities were defined principally along religious
lines. The Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion and equality of opportunity. All
religious denominations enjoyed the right to establish institutions for religious and charitable
purposes and to own property. At the same time, in keeping with its secular nature, the
Constitution provided that no religious instruction should be provided in any educational
institution wholly maintained out of State funds and that no person attending an educational
institution recognized by the State could be compelled to take part in religious instruction
without his or her consent.
89. Linguistic minorities, too, had protection under the Constitution and all minorities had
the right to educational institutions of their own. The Minorities Commission evaluated
development activities in relation to minorities, monitored the workings of the Constitution and
examined specific complaints regarding deprivation of the rights of minorities.
90. Nonetheless, isolated incidents involving violence against members of minority
communities did, regrettably, occur, although they were generally revealed to be the handiwork
of criminal and fringe elements. The Government had repeatedly made clear that it would not
tolerate such incidents.
91. There was a growing sentiment that the problem of internally displaced persons was a
global issue, affecting a large number of people. The primary duty of protecting such persons
belonged to the State concerned. International action should remain within the bounds of the
concept of sovereignty, which should not be diluted. Internally displaced persons who lacked
legal or institutional protection were found only in countries where there was no effective State
machinery. The guiding principles on internally displaced persons were not legally binding but
could serve as useful guidelines for States.
92. Within countries, the law of the land should prevail; what was important was to ensure
that the law contained a high level of protection for the human rights of all. As for displacement
occurring as a result of developmental projects, such decisions were made in democratic
societies by the elected representatives of the people. External agencies had no role to play.
93. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said
that the Minister of Immigrant Absorption of Israel had referred to the right of return which
allowed any Jew, from any part of the world, to enter Israel and be granted citizenship. It was, in
other words, an ethnic law, based solely on the Jewish religion. By the same token, however, it
prevented Palestinians returning to their homes and recovering property confiscated by the
occupying forces of Israel, although that ran counter to international law and the Geneva
Conventions. The Minister had been guilty of misrepresentation. Members should read the text
of the Law in order to see how it discriminated against Palestinians.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.