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Summary record of the 13th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Wednesday, 10 August 1994 : Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 46th session.

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Economic and Social
17 August 1994
Original: ENGLISH
Forty-sixth session
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 10 August 1994, at 3 p.m.
Chairman: Mrs. Attah
later: Mr. Boutkevitch
Contemporary forms of slavery (continued)
Promotion, protection and restoration of human rights at national, regional
and international levels:
(a) Prevention of discrimination and protection of children: human rights
and youth;
(b) Human rights and disability (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
Sub-Commission at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum,
to be issued shortly after the end of the session.
GE.94-13570 (E)
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The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.
CONTEMPORARY FORMS OF SLAVERY (agenda item 16) (continued)
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/33, 34 and 41)
(b) HUMAN RIGHTS AND DISABILITY (agenda item 17) (continued)
(E/CN.4/Sub.2 (1994/35)
1. Mr. GREENWALD (International League for Human Rights) drew the attention
of the Sub-Commission to the continued existence in many countries of forced
labour, which was unquestionably a form of slavery. One country of which his
organization had acquired considerable knowledge was Myanmar, where civilians
were routinely pressed into service as porters for the army in the country’s
continuing civil war and forced to work in the most inhuman conditions.
Forced labour was also widely used by the ruling military junta for various
development projects. Such practices were by no means unique to Myanmar and
were indeed commonplace in areas affected by civil war. His organization
urged the Sub-Commission to describe the practice as a violation of the
international law on the prohibition of slavery.
2. Another matter of profound concern was the persistence of the practice of
abducting and selling people into slavery in countries such as the Sudan.
There had been numerous reports from that country of cases where Government
security forces and militias involved in the civil war had abducted Nuba women
and children and sold them into slavery.
3. In conclusion, he urged the Sub-Commission to continue its efforts to
combat slavery in all its forms, whether traditional or modern.
4. Mrs. PALLEY, replying to points raised by Mr. Lindgren Alves, pointed out
that, although no formal treaty body existed for the slavery conventions, the
Working Group served as a de facto treaty body which monitored their
implementation, covered both ratifying and non-ratifying States and examined
the wide range of topics covered by the 1926 Slavery Convention, the 1956
Supplementary Convention, and the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the
Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. The
de facto status of the Working Group as a jurisdictional body had been
repeatedly endorsed by the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and
Social Council.
5. It was regrettable that so many States had not signed or ratified the
slavery conventions. The 1993 Vienna Conference had expressed the hope that
all human rights conventions would be ratified by the year 2000. As a result,
the Working Group had informally taken up the matter of non-ratification with
the States concerned and had found that the 1949 Convention was not
acceptable in some modern societies where a permissive attitude to sexual
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matters prevailed. Non-ratification of the 1956 Convention was even more
serious, since without it there would be little protection against child
delivery for exploitation, which was not covered by international law.
6. Another difficulty had been the inability of the Working Group to act as
an effective implementing body for the slavery conventions. A senior
Secretariat official had proposed the establishment by the Commission on Human
Rights of an expert working group on contemporary forms of slavery. It had
been subsequently made clear that such a move would mean the abolition of the
existing Sub-Commission Working Group. However, despite the criticisms which
had been levelled at its working methods, there were distinct advantages in
maintaining the Sub-Commission Group. It had become a "mini-parliament",
attended by representatives of many NGOs and Governments. It had provided the
evidence and impetus to the ILO to take up the matter of bonded and child
labour in South Asian countries, which had led to major reforms in legislation
in that area.
7. If the Working Group were abolished, item 16 of the Sub-Commission’s
agenda would probably disappear and items 17 (a) and 17 (b) would probably be
less fully debated. It had a unique role in relation to the dissemination by
the media of material likely to diminish respect for women, and had alerted
the Sub-Commission to developments in the important human rights areas it
covered. While improvements might be made to the Group’s working methods,
such as enhancing the level of cooperation with Governments, there was already
in fact a high level of informal cooperation of that kind.
8. Despite those advantages, some people still believed that a Commission
working group would have more expertise than the Sub-Commission body. Even if
that were so, a Commission working group monitoring the slavery conventions
would probably not cover non-ratifying States, nor would it cover the wide
range of subjects dealt with by the existing Group and a major human rights
safeguard would be lost. Furthermore, a Commission working group would not
convene as frequently and would not have the features of a "mini-parliament",
and the Commission would not have the time to debate the working group’s
report in sufficient depth. Another disadvantage of a Commission working
group would be the difficulty faced by the smaller NGOs in putting their views
9. Budgetary policy had been at the heart of the apparent choice between a
Commission working group and a Sub-Commission working group. The existing
Group might conceivably be abolished and not replaced on the grounds that
slavery had disappeared, that the 1949 Convention was out of date and that the
functions of the Working Group might better be covered by other bodies.
10. As for the specific point raised by Mr. Lindgren Alves regarding the
Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child
pornography it should be borne in mind that the post had been created at the
Working Group’s insistence and that special rapporteurs compiled their reports
in their own time and without pay. They could not replace the broad mandate
of the Working Group and the Special Rapporteur had, in fact, welcomed the
proposed strengthening of the Working Group’s mandate.
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11. Many States did not want a working group on minorities or even the
Working Group on Indigenous Peoples. It seemed entirely possible that the
mandate of the Sub-Commission might be gradually reduced and eventually
confined to residual standard-setting debates, as certain critics desired, if
it did not take adequate steps to guard its working groups.
12. With regard to its overall procedures, she urged the Sub-Commission to
accept the Working Group’s recommendations and to regard the matter of
priorities as settled in the new agenda, which focused far more on persons
subjected to forced labour and other forms of exploitation and less on
13. A very important substantive issue was that of compensation for the
so-called "comfort women" and slave labourers in South-East Asia during the
Second World War. The victims had, in many cases, suffered permanent
psychological damage and thus continuing violation of their rights. The World
Conference on Human Rights had expressly rejected the view that compensation
should be paid only in cases of current violations. Persons working in slave
labour camps near Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the time the atomic bombs were
dropped had received no compensation, although Japanese citizens with the same
fall-out problems had been compensated. While the prosecution of individuals
responsible for violations was not desirable, it was to be hoped that the
Japanese authorities would show generosity in providing proper compensation to
the individuals who had endured forced labour and prostitution in its former
occupied territories during the Second World War, rather than hide behind
legalistic arguments in an attempt to avoid doing so.
14. Mr. ZHONG Shukong commended the work done by the Sub-Commission in
protecting the human rights of women, children and the disabled. He suggested
that, in the light of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which had
emphasized the interdependence of democracy, development and human rights, the
Sub-Commission should focus on the need to achieve greater integration of the
protection of human rights with the promotion of economic and social
development. A substantial proportion of the world’s population, especially
in the developing countries lived in extreme poverty which meant in many cases
that their most basic right to life was threatened. Equitable economic and
social development was crucial to the promotion of basic human rights.
15. With regard to the protection of the human rights of children, there were
three specific areas which had been emphasized in the Vienna Declaration and
to which the Sub-Commission should pay particular attention in its future
work. First, there was the need to promote respect for the rights of the
child to survival, protection, development and participation (para. 45 of the
Vienna Declaration). Secondly, States were urged to give particular priority
to reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, reducing malnutrition and
illiteracy and improving access to safe drinking water and basic education
(para. 47). The importance of adequate education, with an emphasis on the
inculcation of sound moral values, in helping children to develop into
tolerant and far-sighted citizens, could not be exaggerated. Thirdly, all
States should combat the exploitation and abuse of children and tackle the
root causes of such exploitation (para. 48). In that connection, the country
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reports submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child by all the
Member States of the United Nations should also be made available to the
16. As far as the human rights of disabled persons were concerned, two points
needed the continuing attention of the Sub-Commission as a follow-up to
the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights. First, all States Members of the
United Nations should ensure that disabled persons had the rights to life,
welfare, education and work and should adopt or adjust legislation to secure
access to those and other rights. Secondly, persons with disabilities should
be guaranteed equal opportunity through the elimination of all physical,
financial, social or psychological barriers that excluded or restricted their
full participation in society.
17. Those two points were crucial for the protection and promotion of the
human rights of the disabled, but their implementation was an arduous task
requiring joint national efforts by the Government, society and the disabled
persons themselves, as well as international cooperation. In developing
countries, the assurance of equal rights for disabled persons had to be
integrated into national and social development programmes and to be
implemented in the light of country-specific conditions.
18. China had approximately 70 million disabled persons. The Government,
society and the families of the disabled were making joint efforts to secure
their right to life and work. The Government was providing special subsidies
or pensions for workers injured or maimed in accidents at the workplace,
technical training for disabled persons capable of doing work suited to their
physical condition, and income tax exemption for disabled pedlars capable of
moving about in wheelchairs or on crutches and for disabled owners of small
street stalls.
19. Society, through neighbourhood committees or local branches of the
Association of Disabled Persons, arranged frequent visits to the home or
dormitory of the disabled and provided social services free of charge,
including the delivery of food and food grains, the repair of family utilities
and arranging doctors’ visits. Disabled persons cultivated the spirit of
self-respect, self-confidence and self-reliance and actively participated in
economic, political and social activities in so far as their physical
condition permitted. At election times, ballot boxes were transported to
their residences if they were incapable of moving about.
20. In approximately four weeks’ time, an athletics meeting of disabled
persons of the Far East and South Pacific was due to open in Beijing. He had
been deeply impressed by the enthusiasm and admirable spirit with which
disabled athletes from all over China had trained in the past year with a view
to qualifying as representatives of their respective provinces. Videotapes of
such preparatory training had been broadcast on local and nation-wide
television. More important still, the spirit with which disabled athletes
were defying hardship had instilled a new confidence in the millions of
disabled persons throughout China and had won the admiration and support of
the people in general. Given such a lofty spirit, and with the support of the
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Government and society at large, equal rights for disabled persons could be
achieved step by step as the nation’s economic and social development
progressed further.
21. All that went to show that, if the rights to life, nutrition and
education for children and the rights to life, work and welfare for the
disabled or the minorities were to be secured, a proper material basis was
indispensable; that depended primarily on the progress of a country’s
socio-economic development. Consequently, it was vital to associate more
closely the protection of human rights with the promotion of socio-economic
development, especially in developing countries, which accounted for
over 75 per cent of the human race but for less than 20 per cent of the
world’s GNP.
22. Mrs. KOUFA said that, as the Executive Director of UNICEF had stated, the
plight of imprisoned children everywhere represented a dramatic human problem
which demanded the urgent attention of a caring world. Nevertheless, the
misfortune and immense suffering of imprisoned children had not yet aroused
the necessary pity and reaction of the international community. While the
international will to enforce and reinforce the rights of the child had grown
over the years, encompassing the legal coverage of a whole range of human
rights and even developing the protection of children in new areas, the plight
of children incarcerated as criminals with adults remained largely
unacknowledged and neglected.
23. The imprisonment of children with adults occurred everywhere in the
world. Whether they were street children, homeless, beggars or street
vendors, truants or "uncontrollable" and "unruly", child refugees or illegal
immigrants, suspected delinquents, hostages in states of siege, prisoners of
war or political internees, the incarceration of children with adults for
whatever length of time had catastrophic physical and moral effects on their
existence and development. Physical and sexual abuse by adult inmates and
prison staff was both frequent and severe. Psychological trauma, physical and
emotional helplessness, neglect, malnutrition, untreated physical and mental
illness, suicide, and integration into a criminal way of life appeared to be
among the most prevalent consequences.
24. Even children that remained unhurt or unmolested usually ended up twice
as tough as when they had entered prison. The very desperation which had
driven them to unlawful acts and the social marginalization which they already
suffered were reinforced by their imprisonment. Instead of being reformed,
they left prison even less able to cope with the outside world than before,
and most of them would return to prison in later life.
25. Those victimized young people had a profound need of care, protection and
understanding rather than further alienation, deprivation and stigmatization.
They required support rather than punishment and, above all, recognition of
their special status as children. Their undeniable rights as children that
were recognized in the home, in the community and even in the workplace must
also be recognized when misfortune placed them in prison.
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26. International law spelt out the rights of children and the respective
obligations of States to protect them in that very area where they were
jeopardized most. The Convention on the Rights of the Child not only provided
for the inherent right to life of every child and for the obligation of States
to ensure to the maximum extent the child’s survival and development: it also
required that, when courts, welfare institutions or administrative authorities
dealt with children, the child’s best interests should be a primary
consideration; that States should protect children from physical or mental
harm and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation; that children were
entitled to the highest attainable standard of health; that life imprisonment
should not be imposed for offences committed before the age of 18; that
children in detention should be separated from adults and must not be tortured
or suffer cruel or degrading treatment; that children who had suffered
maltreatment, neglect or detention should receive appropriate treatment or
training for recovery and rehabilitation; and that children involved in
infringements of the criminal law should be treated in a way which promoted
their sense of dignity and worth and aimed at reintegrating them into society.
The relevant rights and obligations were also stipulated in other important
human rights instruments.
27. The urgent need for international action to protect the rights of
imprisoned children was manifest, since all over the world their situation
constituted one of the most flagrant violations of international human rights
law. The matter had already been raised in the Sub-Commission but no specific
action had been taken, probably for lack of time.
28. In drawing the Sub-Commission’s attention to the issue once again, she
referred in particular to Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1994/91,
1994/92 and 1994/93, with a view to proposing that the Special Rapporteur on
the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, should be
invited to examine also, in depth, the subject of "children in prison" and to
include his conclusions and recommendations in his next report and that the
Committee on the Rights of the Child and other relevant treaty monitoring
bodies, as well as UNICEF, UNESCO, ILO, WHO and INTERPOL, Governments and
intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations should be requested to
pay particular attention to the subject. If those proposals met with the
agreement of her colleagues, she was more than willing to consult with them on
the eventual submission of a draft resolution for possible adoption by the
29. Mr. Boutkevitch took the Chair.
30. Mr. Joon Hee LEE (Observer for the Republic of Korea) said that the
Korean people remained deeply concerned about the sexual enslavement of women
by the Japanese authorities during the Second World War. His Government had
repeatedly requested that the "comfort women" issue should be thoroughly
investigated by the Japanese Government so that it might provide a history
lesson, since gaining a clear understanding of past wrongs was critical for
learning the lessons that history could provide and for avoiding a repetition
of the same mistakes. It was desirable that the Sub-Commission should give
due attention to the "comfort women" issue, because violations of women’s
rights had emerged as one of the main human rights concerns of the
international community.
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31. The ministerial statement by the Japanese Government in August 1993, in
which it acknowledged Japan’s role in the comfort women affair, was a positive
step forward. His Government and the Korean people would continue to watch
carefully for any follow-up measures by the Japanese Government and to see
whether they were in line with that statement and were truly directed at
concrete action reflecting Japan’s apology. His Government would also pay
great attention to the efforts being made by various groups in the Republic of
Korea and to United Nations initiatives to ascertain the truth and draw the
attention of the international community to such an important question.
32. Since enforced prostitution still remained a matter of great concern in
the contemporary world, he reiterated the wish of both his Government and the
Korean people that the Sub-Commission should continue to pay great attention
to the matter, including the comfort women issue.
33. Mr. AN Myung Hun (Observer for the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea), after expressing his Government’s special appreciation of the
activities of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, said that
timely and thorough acknowledgement of crimes against humanity committed in
the past was becoming ever more urgent owing to the danger that they might be
repeated. A Government which did not recognize crimes committed by its
predecessor Government was, in essence, considered to be the Government that
had actually committed those crimes.
34. In Japan, which was trying to win favour in other countries by means of
economic and financial contributions and to climb to a position of political
power on the international stage, human rights were being openly violated as
in the days of the old Imperial Japan. The human rights of Koreans in Japan
were being violated in a very dangerous and organized form. The Japanese
police had attacked, without any legal basis, the headquarters of the General
Association of Korean Residents in Japan at Osaka on 25 April 1994 and another
headquarters at Kyoto on 6 June 1994, as well as the houses of Koreans living
in Japan. The Osaka headquarters was a small building where a few full-time
officials carried out their daily work, but it had been raided by
1,400 policemen. That fact alone sufficed to show the extent of Japan’s
suppression of the human rights of other nations. It was reminiscent of the
prelude to the Kanto earthquake incident of 1923.
35. The 800,000 Koreans currently residing in Japan were the survivors and
descendants of the 6 million Koreans who had been forcibly transferred to
Japan at the time of Japanese colonial rule, with whose sweat, blood and
corpses a large part of the foundations of the Japanese economy had been
built. Currently, under Japanese law, Korean schoolchildren were obliged to
pay more when using the railways and roads which their forefathers had
constructed without receiving any payment. Korean women in Japan were not
permitted to wear the long, pleated skirts which constituted their national
costume and were attacked if they did so. In 1994 alone, 160 such incidents
had occurred.
36. All that was being done under the direction, or with the acquiescence, of
the Japanese Government. It was no exaggeration to state that the idea that
other nations could not be treated equally was still alive in Japan, which
still harboured its old ambitions. For example, on 3 May 1994, the then
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Minister of Justice had claimed that the Pacific War had not been a war of
aggression and that the Nanking massacre in China in 1937 was a "fiction".
37. The contemporary forms of slavery and the phenomena of neo-nazism and
neo-militarism were rooted in the past. Consequently, the Sub-Commission, at
its current session, should pay greater attention to the acknowledgement of
past crimes and deal more seriously with their current and future
manifestations. His delegation hoped that all countries, regardless of their
distance from Japan, would join together in nipping in the bud a further
calamity that could be imposed upon mankind.
38. Mrs. CARRIZOSA de LÓPEZ (Observer for Colombia) said that her Government
wished to repeat the clarification it had sent to the Centre for Human Rights
in connection with the use made, as an illustration of trafficking in human
organs, of the apparent evidence presented in a documentary, based on the work
of a journalist, Marie Monique Robin, shown on international television and in
a nearby room during the fiftieth session of the Commission on Human Rights.
The allegation related to supposed irregularities in the attention given to
the child Weinis Jeison Cruz Vargas by public institutions which were accused
of extracting the child’s eyes.
39. The government inquiry into the matter revealed that the Cruz Vargas
child, according to the clinical records of the institution in which he had
been hospitalized, had not been operated upon. He had received only medical
treatment for his eyes, but the severe ocular infection from which he had been
suffering had caused the perforation of the corneas, leading to a total loss
of vision. The child’s mother, Mrs. Luz Dary Vargas, had received from the
journalist the sum of 40,000 pesos for the version which she had given of her
child’s life. The journalist had not visited any of the health institutions
where the child had been cared for and had consulted neither any of the
professionals who had treated the child nor the clinical records.
40. The alleged irregularities could have been quickly and simply clarified
if the journalist had investigated the matter in a professional way. The
report, which her Government was making available to the Sub-Commission’s
experts and to all interested persons, established when, how and where the
child had lost his sight. The report had been distributed to the members of
the Working Group and sent to the Centre for Human Rights in February 1994.
41. Her delegation reiterated its surprise that communications and evidence
submitted by a Government in respect of such a serious accusation had not been
taken into account and that work of a poor professional standard was still
being used as evidence. The relevant complaint had been made to the
Government of France.
42. Mr. CHAKRAVARTI (Observer for India) said that his country’s Constitution
had been deliberately framed to provide for affirmative action in favour of
those who could not exercise their human rights unaided. There were
constitutional safeguards to ensure that the socially and economically
deprived were effectively represented in the legislatures as well as in public
services. Over the years, measured steps had been taken to create special
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commissions and institutions to promote greater awareness and to safeguard the
well-being of religious minorities and the weaker sections of society and to
secure justice for them.
43. His Government recognized that child labour was a real problem in India.
It was generally acknowledged that family poverty and child labour were
closely intertwined and that action should be taken to combat harmful child
labour and its exploitation. His Government was tackling the problem in a
multidisciplinary manner. The employment of children under the age of
14 years in hazardous occupations was prohibited and children’s working
conditions were regulated. Whenever required, action was taken to prohibit
the employment of children of any age in unsuitable occupations.
44. Since legislation alone was not sufficient to solve the problem, a
National Policy on Child Labour had been formulated in 1987. The aim was to
provide education, vocational training, supplementary nutrition and health
care through special schools. In 1993/94, there had been a 90 per cent
increase in financial allocations for child labour projects as compared
with 1992/93.
45. Cooperation with the NGOs was an essential part of the Government’s
approach. India was actively participating in the international Programme of
Action for the Elimination of the Exploitation of Child Labour. Some
60 projects in 15 States, covering 34,000 children, had been initiated at a
total cost of US$ 1.8 million.
46. Inspections to enforce legislative provisions for the protection of
working children had been intensified. Significant court decisions were being
used to train inspectors in the successful prosecution of cases, since the
enforcement of the provisions of the Child Labour Act of 1986 depended on
judicial decisions. The All-India Carpet Manufacturers’ Association had
itself launched an awareness campaign, warning loom owners and weavers not to
employ child artisans under the age of 14 years. As a result, a number of
working children below that age had returned to their homes.
47. The assertion that the perpetuation of poverty was primarily due to child
employment was a simplistic one. In the family-based industries in particular
children were not working to the detriment of their parents but simply to
augment the subsistence level of the entire family. That was especially true
in agriculture.
48. Mixing international trade with the question of child labour was a
mistake, since the use of trade as an instrument of coercion would merely
exacerbate the poverty in which such problems were rooted. Over the years,
the Indian judiciary had taken the lead in its judgments against social evils
rooted in poverty by responding to public petitions, while the Indian press
had never been known for its reticence on any issue of social concern.
49. The so-called practice of untouchability had had its origin in an ancient
division of labour. Indeed, all early societies had had their hierarchies and
caste systems of one kind or another. In India, the caste system in its
primitive form had been based on occupational stratification, and movement
from one caste to another had been possible. In that framework, caste had
page 11
served a useful purpose as a social insurance system. In the course of time,
however, the caste system, had become rigid and had developed unfortunate
distortions. Movement from one caste to another had become difficult if not
impossible, and reprehensible practices like untouchability had come into
being. Colonial regimes had also played a role by freezing the natural
evolution of society.
50. During the freedom struggle and after independence, political and social
leaders had given the highest priority to the abolition of social ills such as
untouchability, and that spirit had been enshrined in the Constitution,
article 17 of which abolished untouchability. The sections of society which
had been affected by the practice had been recognized as the Scheduled Castes,
and special provisions had been to promote their rights and interests.
51. The under-representation of the Scheduled Castes in any sector was
constantly monitored by Parliament. Members of those communities had held,
and were holding, the highest posts in the State and Government. Direct
empowerment had been facilitated by reserving constituencies to the national
and State legislatures for members of the Scheduled Castes.
52. Moreover, the Protection of Civil Rights Act had made the practice of
untouchability in any form a criminal offence, followed by the Scheduled
Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. A National
Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had been constituted and
given statutory powers to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the
safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes and to act as a civil court for
inquiring into complaints.
53. A large number of poverty alleviation and development programmes were
being implemented with a view to strengthening the economic and social status
of the most vulnerable sections of society. They included literacy
programmes, scholarships, employment-generation schemes, job training and
accelerated promotions. The cumulative target of all those measures was to
enhance the social status and receptive capacity of the most vulnerable and
disadvantaged sections of society, and to provide a mechanism by which their
rights could be effectively protected. While it might take some time to
attain those goals, there was a demonstrable national will to do so.
54. India, although a poor country, was unswervingly committed to fundamental
human rights. However, countries like India required a massive social and
economic transformation to conquer the ancient scourges of poverty, ignorance
and social prejudice. To be durable, such changes had to be based on the free
consent of the people that was provided by a democracy. In fact, only
sustained and equitable development in a democratic political framework could
promote a culture of tolerance and peaceful resolution of social and economic
55. Mr. van REENEN (Observer for the Netherlands) said that he had read with
great interest the report of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of
Slavery, and in particular the paragraph and recommendation on the issue of
establishing an effective mechanism for the monitoring of the slavery
convention. He welcomed the fact that the Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working
Group had emphasized the need for the Sub-Commission to adopt a position on
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the issue in the light of the relevant Commission on Human Rights resolution.
He also welcomed Mrs. Palley’s in-depth analysis of the matter. The Working
Group’s proposal that the existing Working Group should be retained and its
mandate strengthened appeared to be a suitable and workable approach. He was
also sympathetic to Anti-Slavery International’s proposal, supported by six
other NGOs, that arrangements should be made to improve the continuity of
membership of the Working Group.
56. Mr. MAXIM said that he wished to thank all those who had expressed
appreciation for the work and report of the Working Group and had made
comments which shed further light on its mandate. He welcomed the positive
reaction to the issue of the mechanism to be established for the
implementation of the slavery conventions, Mrs. Palley’s comments being
particularly relevant.
57. There had been some confusion at the Working Group’s previous session and
during discussions with the Secretariat and others, he had received the
impression that what was being contemplated was the establishment of yet
another working group which would be larger and have a strengthened mandate.
The confusion had, however, made it possible to discuss the issues concerning
the mechanism in a manner which should lead to a further strengthening of the
Working Group. The Commission, the Economic and Social Council and the
General Assembly would, of course, have to endorse the proposed broadening of
the Working Group’s mandate and it would then be possible for the Working
Group to engage in a dialogue with States whereby it could obtain the kind of
information the Sub-Commission needed. It was especially important that there
should be continuity in the work of the Working Group.
58. The Working Group had received no complaints from the public concerning,
for example, the number of children on the street or the number of young girls
who turned to prostitution. Such a lack of protest was curious and might
indicate a lack of interest on the part of the public; the Sub-Commission
might wish to look into that matter.
59. Ms. WARZAZI said she would like to draw attention to an initiative which
the Working Group had taken at its recent session. In the past, the
Secretariat had compiled, an annual list of States that had ratified the
slavery conventions. At its recent session, the Working Group had concluded
that it would be a more useful exercise to produce a list of those States
which had not ratified the conventions, so that the Working Group could try to
identify the reasons therefor. Such reasons might include a lack of interest,
shortage of time or lack of the necessary resources, human or material.
60. The Working Group had therefore informed the States that it was ready to
pursue consultations with them on a friendly basis and in a constructive
spirit regarding the reasons for non-ratification. It had not yet received
any replies. She would therefore like the Secretariat to send a short note to
non-ratifying States saying that the Working Group was ready to discuss the
matter with them. In that way, it was to be hoped that additional information
would be available to the Working Group at its next session so that it would
in a position to develop a better understanding of the problem.
page 13
61. Mr. SANDERS (International Lesbian and Gay Association) said that the
past year had been a very good one for lesbian and gay visibility. At the
national level, lesbian and gay pride parades had taken place in all major
cities in Western States and the media had regularly reported them. In 1993
and 1994, public lesbian and gay parades had been held for the first time in
South Africa, the Philippines, Japan and New Zealand. In February 1994, the
fourteenth annual lesbian and gay Mardi Gras parade, held at Sydney, had been
televised nationally by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for the first
62. On 30 May 1994, 150 lesbians and gay men from 12 countries had held a
remembrance service at Jerusalem’s Hall of Remembrance to pay tribute to
lesbian and gay victims of the Holocaust. In December 1994, for the first
time, there would be national lesbian and gay conferences in India and a
lesbian and gay film festival in New Delhi. In Switzerland a national
committee had been circulating a petition, signed by almost 40,000 residents,
for submission to the Government on issues of lesbian and gay rights.
63. At the regional level, there had also been developments on lesbian and
gay visibility involving participation in CSCE meetings at Warsaw and
Amsterdam. The most important event of the year had been the celebrations in
New York City in June commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
Stonewall riots which had marked the beginning of the modern lesbian and gay
liberation movements. Activities had included the fourth Gay Games, a march
on the United Nations and the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s
world conference. Speakers from around the world had spoken at the rally.
The New York Public Library, the Museum of the City of New York and the New
York Museum of the Performing Arts had had special exhibits on lesbian and gay
64. In 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee had given its first
ruling in favour of lesbian and gay human rights in the matter of
Toonen v. Australia.
65. Ms. BOUVIER (Minority Rights Group) said that her organization had, in
cooperation with UNICEF, recently published a new report on education rights
and minorities which linked the rights of minorities to the key elements of
the rights of children. She proposed that the Sub-Commission should play a
strategic role in the United Nations system by interlinking United Nations
bodies and agencies in the protection of education rights and minority
66. The joint report, the purpose of which was to provide the background for
the protection and promotion of the rights of minorities, described
differentiations of education systems by wealth, attainment, gender,
behaviour, special need, location, attendance, religion, language, curricula,
nationality, age, contact and by race/ethnicity. It explored the relevant
international standards, including the human right to education and
instruments making specific references to minorities.
67. The report emphasized that the enjoyment of human rights was an essential
prerequisite; that was obvious in such horrific situations as those in Rwanda
and Bosnia but also where abject poverty or lack of concern forced young
page 14
children to go to work, jeopardizing their future and probably their own
children’s future. Other social and economic factors also affected
educational and cultural development. For instance, Zimbabwe had made
enormous progress in providing secondary school education since its
independence in the 1980s; that had been crucial in redressing the inherited
injustices in a society that had previously discriminated against the black
community. In Mauritius education was free at all levels, and Mauritius was
often acclaimed as a model multicultural society. On the other hand, the
structural adjustment programmes insisted upon by the World Bank and other
financial donors had often imposed a major new burden on those dependent upon
the State for their education.
68. The report emphasized that language was an essential part of an
individual’s identity and, for minority groups, a significant part of the
group’s identity. While it was essential that members of minority groups
should learn the major language of the State in which they lived, a child’s
first language was normally the best medium for learning, especially in the
early stages of education. Minority language teaching was also necessary for
the development of positive self-image and for children to know about their
history and culture as part of a multicultural State. The report identified
the damage done when States failed to provide mother-tongue education, as in
the cases of the Kurdish community in Turkey and the Bangladeshi community in
the United Kingdom.
69. The report reflected on the fact that State-provided education belonged
in the public domain, while religion could belong to both the public and the
private domain. If the religions of minorities belonged to the private domain
alone, they might become low in status and be regarded as inferior in
education and in society. Failure to provide education rights for minorities
and to build multiculturalism into the educational system had often led to
discrimination and might lead to conflict.
70. Her organization recommended that the Sub-Commission should prepare
specific programmes of action to work in new ways with the treaty bodies,
special rapporteurs and specialized agencies for the exchange of information
and advice on promoting the educational rights of minorities and positive
attitudes between the various communities.
71. Mrs. Attah resumed the Chair.
72. Ms. MANN (World Organization against Torture) said that her organization
had been interested in the rights of the child since the outset of its
operations and welcomed the fact that, with 155 States parties at the end
of 1993, the Convention on the Rights of the Child had become the most
universal of the human rights instruments. Nevertheless violations of
children’s rights still abounded in all parts of the world. Children were the
first to suffer in times of war and situations of repression and extreme
poverty, and their rights were the first to go by the board during periods of
structural adjustment.
73. Among the most heinous crimes perpetrated against children, all of which
were expressly forbidden by the Convention were: torture, bonded labour,
page 15
detention in adult prisons, trafficking of children for pornography, sexual
exploitation or commercial purposes, violations against street children and
conscription of children into armed forces.
74. Children had been tortured in some of the countries that had ratified the
Convention. The purpose was to put pressure on their parents to confess while
other children had been forced to witness the torture of their parents and yet
others had been tortured for political motives. In March 1994, her
organization had raised, with the Commission on Human Rights, the case of a
Colombian woman whose three children had been forced to witness her being
tortured to death by members of the army in June 1993. In September 1993, the
brutal torture of a number of minors by members of the Turkish army had been
reported in the village of Damlatas in Turkey during a military operation.
75. Despite article 32 of the Convention, the bonded labour of children in
conditions of near slavery remained a reality in many parts of the world.
Very young children were being forced to work in appalling and dangerous
conditions for pitiful wages, with the result that some of them were maimed or
crippled for life, blinded and deprived of education and any hope of a
brighter future. That was the daily lot of children in many Asian countries
such as India, Nepal and Pakistan, where a conservative estimate had fixed the
number of children under 14 in employment at around 10 million.
76. Conditions of detention of children in many parts of the world
constituted a serious violation of their rights. In many countries such as,
for example, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Mauritania,
Zaire, Madagascar and Mali, appropriate facilities for the detention of minors
did not exist. Many were held in appalling conditions and, despite provisions
in the Convention expressly forbidding it, many were held with hardened
criminals in institutions for adults.
77. The trafficking of children for pornography, sexual exploitation or
commercial purposes was a particularly serious problem. Reports had been
received from many parts of the world concerning the sale of children for
adoption, particularly from the countries of the former Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe. Child prostitution was still a very serious problem,
aggravated by structural adjustment programmes which had often served further
to impoverish vulnerable sectors of the population, thereby forcing young
girls and boys into prostitution as a means of livelihood. Such children were
vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and those that managed to escape
were often stigmatized by their families and society. Myanmar, Thailand and
the Philippines presented horrifying scenarios. Child pornography, too,
appeared to be on the increase.
78. The problem of the trafficking and sale of children for such purposes was
an international one and required international solutions. Children were
being taken across national borders and all Governments should cooperate to
prevent such exploitation and transfer of children for illicit purposes or
commercial gain.
79. Increased mobility and the ease of travel had meant that so-called "sex
tourism" had increased over the last couple of decades. Many of the countries
which were the most vulnerable to such practices did not have sufficient
page 16
legislation to combat those practices or the resources to implement such
legislation as they had. Her organization was thus particularly gratified to
note that a number of European States had adopted legislation to prosecute
their nationals who engaged in such practices abroad. Other countries should
be encouraged to adopt similar legislation.
80. Her organization urged the Sub-Commission to recommend the adoption by
States of measures to assist one another in connection with criminal
proceedings in such cases and to provide the necessary information and
collaboration. It wished to reiterate its demand that the Special Rapporteur
on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography should
collaborate more closely with the Sub-Commission and its Working Group on
Contemporary Forms of Slavery.
81. The problem of street children throughout the world was a particularly
alarming one, that had been exacerbated by programmes of structural adjustment
and the further impoverishment of the third world. Street children were
particularly vulnerable to all forms of exploitation, sexual abuse and murder
by hired assassins, who supplemented their income by ridding the streets of
what was perceived as vermin. The problem was particularly acute in
Latin America but also in many countries of Africa and Asia. Her organization
fully supported resolution 1994/93 of the Commission on Human Rights which
called on the Sub-Commission to pay particular attention to the plight of
street children.
82. The problem of recruitment of children into armed forces remained very
serious. There were, however, some encouraging signs that new international
legislation to regulate that situation more closely was on the verge of being
formulated, whereby the minimum age of recruitment would be raised from 15
to 18.
83. Mrs. SPALDING (International Association of Educators for World Peace)
said the Secretary-General’s report on human rights and disability
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/35) was most disappointing in that there was still no sign
of any implementation of Mr. Despouy’s recommendation that an office of
ombudsman be established for persons with disabilities, a recommendation that
was not even mentioned in the report. The Sub-Commission’s original response
to Mr. Despouy’s report and its resolution requesting urgent implementation of
the recommendations contained therein had been simply ignored. The
Sub-Commission would, surely, not permit its work on behalf of the largest and
most marginalized minority in the world, nearly 600 million people, to be
snuffed out so easily. Disabilities must be placed squarely within the
purview of human rights with effective means of accountability.
84. Mr. TEITELBAUM (American Association of Jurists) said that his
organization profoundly deplored the proposal to limit the interventions by
non-governmental organizations under agenda item 6, which would cause the
Sub-Commission to lose even more of its effectiveness and credibility. The
Sub-Commission should be concerned about more serious problems such as the
lack of independence of some of its members.
85. Neither the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women nor the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which were
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intended to protect the most numerous and notorious victims of human rights
violations of all kinds, contained any mechanisms to allow States, individuals
and non-governmental organizations to submit complaints to the respective
committees or to enable those committees to play a quasi-jurisdictional role.
It was urgent, therefore, that the two conventions be provided with optional
protocols to facilitate such procedures, as in the case of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and
Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination. In the case of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
such an optional protocol would be a mere statement of good intent unless it
established systems of verification monitoring and investigation and
procedures for submitting complaints of violations of the rights of the child.
86. Mr. XAVIER (International League for the Rights and Liberation of
Peoples) said that children were the most vulnerable victims of structural
adjustment and the economic measures imposed by national and international
political and financial powers. There was a need to classify, within the
context of fundamental and inviolable rights, economic crimes for which there
could be no impunity. The prevailing ideology sought to reduce human beings
to variable dependents. In "official" policy, designed for the South but
subject to the same logic of adjustment for the North, there was a tendency to
accept that humanity was doomed to be separated into classes and social
levels, in a spirit of apartheid of rights. The widening gap in standards of
living was reflected in the decreasing respect for basic dignity, as
exemplified by the children of Brazil, who were raped and murdered; those of
India, who were sold into slavery; and those of southern Europe, who were
87. A session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal was to be held on the rights
of children in the spring of 1995. It would begin by examining the worsening
condition of children. While too many children were suffering violations of
their fundamental rights even in industrialized countries, the situation was
much worse in poor countries. Not all children suffered human rights
violations to the same degree; the magnitude of the violations depended on
different socio-economic conditions and the condition of children could not be
dissociated from that of adults. Neither domestic nor international law was
sufficient to remedy that situation.
88. The members of the international community with obligations concerning
violations of children’s human rights were the international financial
institutions, because of the power they exercised over the condition of
children, and the Governments of the industrialized countries, because of
their power within those same financial institutions, their economic policies
and their jurisdiction over transnational industry and banking.
89. Mr. KOTHARI (Habitat International Coalition) said that his organization
was deeply concerned at the deterioration in children’s living and housing
conditions around the world and its adverse impact on their basic rights, such
as the rights to health, education, a legal identity, citizenship and
sometimes even the right to life. Children born in informal settlements,
slums or on the pavements, where their families had no rights to land or
housing, were not registered at birth, with a resultant denial of their
page 18
economic, social and cultural rights which facilitated their economic
exploitation. Being deprived of a legal identity and a secure place to live,
they were also more likely to be subjected to all kinds of violations, notably
ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and even extrajudicial execution.
90. His organization was particularly alarmed at the growing phenomenon of
street children, whose critical situation was a very concrete example of the
direct link between housing rights and the fundamental human rights. It was
convinced that one of the main reasons for the growth in that phenomenon was
discriminatory housing and planning policies, especially in the developing
countries, which had forced people and communities out of the inner city areas
to places far away from livelihood opportunities.
91. Another contributory cause was the growing phenomenon of forced
evictions, the involuntary displacement of people and families from their
homes and lands, for which misguided governmental development policies were
often responsible. Governments were not the only initiators of forced
evictions, however; in some cases, large-scale development projects, supported
by international financial institutions, had also led to the displacement and
uprooting of entire communities. Whatever the source, forced evictions led
not only to impoverishment but also to the disruption of the family structure
and an increase in the number of female-headed families, thus dramatically
affecting the well-being and development of a great number of children.
92. Yet another cause of uprooting was the adverse impact of structural
adjustment and debt policies on children’s lives. It was imperative that the
international financial institutions, notably the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund, should take into account the human rights
dimensions of their policies.
93. The Sub-Commission should request all the specialized agencies to
consider more carefully the question of children’s housing rights within their
mandates. UNICEF should develop reliable indicators to assess the state of
children’s housing rights. In addition, the Committee on the Rights of the
Child should devote more attention to the issues arising from the worldwide
deterioration in children’s housing and living conditions and the increasing
numbers of children living in poverty.
94. Mr. NEWMAN (Human Rights Advocates) said that the Sub-Commission’s agenda
did not identify several serious questions connected with human rights
violations that caused inexcusable harm to disabled people. The Special
Rapporteur assigned to monitor the General Assembly’s new Standard Rules on
the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities would not
consider pertinent problems of legality. The reason was that, quite uniquely,
those new rules themselves declared that they were not legal rules but
hortatory only. Furthermore, the United Nations Commission for Social
Development, to whom the new Special Rapporteur reported, had not
traditionally dealt with legal problems of violation. As a result, there
would not be the kinds of inquiry, based on the International Bill of Human
Rights for example, which characterized the "violations work" done by the
Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission.
The meeting rose at 5.55 p.m.