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Summary record of the 14th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Thursday, 15 August 1996 : Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 48th session.

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Economic and Social
25 October 1996
Original: FRENCH
Forty-eighth session
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 15 August 1996, at 10 a.m.
Chairman: Mr. EIDE
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.96-13418 (E)
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CONTENTS (continued)
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The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.
CONTEMPORARY FORMS OF SLAVERY (agenda item 15) (continued)
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/24, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/25 and Add.1, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/26,
E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/NGO/19 and E/CN.4/1996/100)
(c) HUMAN RIGHTS AND DISABILITY (agenda item 16) (continued)
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/27, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/34 and E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/NGO/22)
1. Mrs. PARKER (International Educational Development) referred to the
excellent report by Mr. Despouy on “Human rights and disability”
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.92.XIV.4), which called particular
attention to the interrelationship between violations of the rules of war and
disability. War, even when conducted in full compliance with the Hague and
Geneva Conventions and all other rules of humanitarian law, was unavoidably
both physically and psychologically harmful to military personnel, whose
medical needs must be provided by the parties to the conflict, under the
Geneva Convention. Nevertheless, when military operations were carried out in
violation of the rules of war, Governments had to deal with a large number of
"unplanned-for" cases of disability, most of which were avoidable. That
entailed a double violation: illegal military operations, on the one hand,
and failure to meet the obligation to provide for the victims’ medical needs
on the other.
2. In the case of the Gulf war, there had been a fivefold violation: the
number of civilian casualties in Iraq had been far too high to be considered
"accidental", in other words the rule that military operations should be
proportional to the military objective had not been respected; the victims of
those illegal military operations had neither been treated nor compensated by
the party responsible for their injuries, namely, the United States; during
the conflict that country had used not only conventional weapons but also
nuclear weapons containing depleted uranium (hence radioactive), which
continued to produce injuries and disabilities; the United States was
attempting to cover up both its use of nuclear weapons and the illegal
military operations; furthermore, it had actively tried to prevent other
persons and groups from providing medical relief to the victims by
interpreting the United Nations sanctions against Iraq to include sanctions
against humanitarian aid - which was none the less protected by the Geneva
Conventions - by adopting domestic laws to that effect. That had led to a
high number of deaths and permanent disabilities, especially among children.
At least 350 tonnes of discards still sat in southern Iraq, and there were no
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plans to address the massive nuclear pollution. Abnormally high rates of
cancer were being reported among Iraqi civilians, along with a high number of
congenital birth defects among the newborn.
3. Her organization therefore urged the Sub-Commission once again to adopt
a resolution expressing concern for the humanitarian situation in Iraq and
recommending that the United States should immediately dispose of the depleted
uranium waste it had left in Iraq and provide adequate financial and medical
resources for the injured or disabled persons.
4. Mr. ZA BALA (World Federation of Democratic Youth) drew the attention
of the Sub-Commission once again to the situation of young people in
Western Sahara, which had been occupied for 20 years by the Moroccan army.
Those children were victims of cruel violations of their rights, particularly
their economic and social rights. More than a thousand of them had gone to
Rabat on 1 August 1996 as part of a peaceful demonstration, to draw attention
to their right to work and to decent living conditions. The police had closed
most of them off in a sports complex and forced others to return home. On
8 August 1996, some young people had been wounded following confrontations
with the Moroccan police.
5. The CHAIRMAN drew the speaker's attention to the fact that his statement
was concerned not with agenda item 16 but with item 6, consideration of which
had concluded.
6. Mr. SCHOENFELD (World Organization against Torture) said that, in 1995,
the number of reported cases of violations of children’s human rights and
torture of children had risen by 30 per cent and was likely to increase even
more in 1996. The real level remained hidden.
7. In Israel, for example, land confiscation had had extremely serious
implications for the rights of the child. In the village of Al-Samou, near
Hebron, which the Israeli authorities had decided to demolish in June 1996,
16 minors had been arrested for resisting the bulldozing operations. They had
been subjected to acts of violence during their interrogation, which had
lasted for several days. The Committee against Torture had expressed its deep
concern at the Israeli methods of interrogation. Such acts were committed in
total violation not only of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but also of other human rights
instruments, ratified by Israel, that safeguarded such things as the right to
housing. Such acts of violence against children could only damage the climate
of trust essential to the search for a lasting peace in the region.
8. At the fifty-second session of the Commission on Human Rights, his
organization had denounced the situation in Bahrain, where more than
100 children had been arrested as part of the internal conflicts, and had been
beaten, raped, threatened denied access to their families, and tried without
even the most basic legal safeguards.
9. Another violation of the rights of children on all continents was the
detention of children with adults, which posed grave risks to minors, who were
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particularly vulnerable to mistreatment by adults. In Honduras, for example,
261 cases had been documented of children detained with adults, and 12 of them
had been cruelly mistreated by other inmates.
10. At its latest session, the Commission on Human Rights had urged States
to separate minors from adults in detention centres, but the gravity of the
situation required further action at the international level. His
organization regretted that the definition of torture contained, for example,
in the Convention against Torture had not been adopted by all States,
including those that had ratified it. It could well be asked to what extent
the definition of torture contained in the international instruments offered
sufficient protection in the case of minors. His organization had submitted a
document on that subject to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The
lack of clarity at the international level about protection of children could
only translate into abuse at the national level. In that connection, it would
be useful, as the Special Rapporteur on torture had done in his latest report,
for other bodies, including Working Groups and the thematic rapporteurs of the
Sub-Commission, to address that grave problem.
11. Mr. MAEDA (International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)),
speaking also on behalf of the Japanese Association for Human Rights of
Koreans in Japan, informed the Sub-Commission about three recent events
concerning violations of the rights of Korean children in Japan.
12. On 10 April 1996, a Korean schoolboy had been attacked and severely
injured by a Japanese in front of crowds of people. It was part of a long
series of such incidents in Japan, where many Korean schoolgirls had already
been assaulted in public by Japanese armed with daggers, who had ripped their
national costume (chima-chogori). The Japanese Government had never taken any
effective measures against that violence, although the IADL had already
denounced the problem on three occasions to the Commission on Human Rights.
On 8 August 1996, a high-ranking official in the Japanese Government,
Mr. Kajiyama, had officially stated that the Japanese army would do nothing
if the Korean organizations in Japan started to fight among themselves. That
statement had astonished and disappointed peace-loving, sensible people in
Japan and Korea. In October 1995, the Japanese Government had invalidated the
decision taken by the municipal authorities in Kawasaki to put Korean schools
on the same footing as Japanese schools. Foreign schools in Japan were not
officially recognized, and the students of Korean schools could not even take
entrance examinations for the State-run universities.
13. Korea had been colonized by Japan in 1905, more than a million Koreans
had been displaced and forced to work in Japan, and hundreds of Korean women
had been systematically raped by Japanese soldiers. Since Japan's surrender
in August 1945, its Government had never offered an apology to the victims
and had continually rejected the demands for compensation. Today, it was
violating the human rights of the children of the Korean war victims. IADL
hoped that the Sub-Commission would pay due attention to the discrimination
taking place in one of the world's most economically powerful countries.
14. Mrs. FATIO (Baha'i International Community) said that the influence of
new technologies on the upbringing of children could not be denied. Radio and
television programmes were often of high educational value, and information
about other cultures, science, music and the arts opened up the minds of
children. Children were, however, also an ideal market for unscrupulous
producers of programmes, films and books, who tried to influence society
through them. A considerable number of programmes were produced based on
violence, sex and crime, and their harmful influence had already been amply
demonstrated by child psychologists. In the United States, for example, by
the age of 18 an American child had already seen more than 200,000 acts of
violence on television. Most video games focused on killing as the prime
method for resolving conflicts. The models now being put forward for children
were highly questionable and the stereotyping of women in the media could
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prove to be psychologically detrimental to girls. The media must acquire a
sense of responsibility towards their audiences and strive to use the new
technology in programmes that were designed with the best interests of the
child in mind.
15. The NGO Sub-group on Education, Literacy and Mass Media had been very
concerned after its analysis of 49 State party reports under the Convention
on the Rights of the Child that most of the States concerned were not fully
implementing article 17 of the Convention. The effectiveness of the
protection guidelines presented by Governments in their reports should
therefore be examined by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In an
increasingly complex world where values were continuously undermined, parents,
especially those from disadvantaged environments, needed more and more help
with the upbringing of children.
16. Mr. HATANO said that his statement of 14 August on the way in which
ILO Convention No. 29 concerning forced labour was applicable to sexual
slavery in times of armed conflict was in no way concerned with Japan and was
motivated solely by academic curiosity. In paragraph 29 of her preliminary
report (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/26), Mrs. Chavez had included ILO Convention No. 29
among the international instruments applicable to sexual slavery in wartime,
without indicating that article 2, paragraph 2 (d), of that Convention
excluded from the definition of "forced or compulsory labour" "any work or
service exacted in cases of emergency, that is to say, in the event of war".
It would doubtless have been advisable to have mentioned the existence of that
proviso in the preliminary report and to have briefly explained why the
Convention was none the less applicable to "forced labour" during wartime.
17. He had not the slightest intention of questioning the fact that the ILO
Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations had
decided that the Convention was applicable to Japan during and prior to the
Second World War, since he had not been concerned about Japan in his
statement. His question had had to do with whether the competence of a body
established to monitor application of an international instrument could be
broader in scope than that of a court to which a difference of opinions
between contracting parties on the interpretation or application of a treaty
would be referred. It seemed to him that the Committee of Experts had been
authorized to be more liberal than ordinary courts in interpreting the
provisions of ILO Conventions.
18. Again, he was not sure of the extent to which the findings of the
Committee of Experts could have a retroactive effect. Value systems were very
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changeable, and it was risky to judge the legality or illegality of an act
that had taken place 50 years earlier by the yardstick of the present value
system. It might also cause a conflict with domestic laws.
19. He therefore hoped that Mrs. Chavez would examine the question in detail
and express her views in her final report to the Sub-Commission.
20. Mr. BOSSUYT, speaking on agenda item 15, said that, as was customary,
the role of NGOs in the work of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of
Slavery had been very important and constructive, and in particular he wished
to mention the contributions of Anti-Slavery International and the Action for
Children Campaign.
21. He would draw the attention of the Sub-Commission more particularly to
the recommendation on the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary
Forms of Slavery. The Fund’s situation was far from encouraging, and
Governments should respond favourably to requests for contributions. He had
some reservations about the appeal made to the private sector. A fund created
within an intergovernmental organization should receive donations from public
funds and not private funds, for the latter could well make intergovernmental
organizations and non-governmental organizations compete with one another for
fund-raising on the private market. An attempt should be made to limit the
Fund’s operating expenses, and the suggestion made to the Secretary-General
that the mandate of the Fund’s Board of Trustees should be assigned to the
Working Group seemed extremely pertinent.
22. With regard to the traffic in human organs and tissue, the information
provided by Interpol that there could be no certainty or any tangible proof as
to the existence of such traffic was indeed troubling. It was to be hoped
that the inquiries requested by the Working Group of different bodies would
confirm the truth of the Interpol statements.
23. As for the situation of migrant workers, the Working Group had been
struck by the breadth and the dramatic consequences of the practice followed
in a number of countries of confiscating the passports from migrant workers,
particularly those who worked as domestics. For that reason, it had called on
States to take the necessary steps to punish employers who acted in that way.
24. With reference to the elimination of violence against women, he agreed
with members of the Sub-Commission who had welcomed the information provided
by the Japanese Government on steps taken on behalf of women victims of
sexual slavery during the Second World War. Since they were all at least
70 years old, there should be no more equivocating about the forms of
compensation Japan was ready to grant them.
25. An observation was attributed to him in paragraph 101 of the report of
the Working Group (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/24) and he would point out that, to
surmount the problems raised by the consequences of slavery in Mauritania,
attitudes would have to change. It was important to know that slavery in
Mauritania was not the result of a deliberate government policy, but a social
phenomenon. Its after-effects should be combated and efforts stepped up, but
it was regrettable that the international community had failed to provide
Mauritania with concrete assistance in that regard. As to slavery in the
classic sense of the word, the Sub-Commission’s attention should be drawn in
particular to the Sudan, which had not shown any real readiness to cooperate,
although substantial testimony had been provided in the course of the session
on the persistence of slavery in that country.
26. Mrs. DAES said that the information provided in the section on migrant
workers of the report of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
was particularly useful. The operation, which consisted of grouping together
the unemployed, cheating them of their lifetime’s savings and sending them to
another country promising them a wage, passport and work permit, had become a
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thriving business, and the victims found themselves in tragic situations in
many countries of the world. For that reason, the Working Group should
collect as much information as possible on those new forms of exploitation of
migrant workers.
27. The section on war crimes and crimes against humanity of the preliminary
report on the situation of systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like
practices during periods of armed conflict (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/26), which was
of high quality, should perhaps have been further developed.
28. Mrs. PALLEY congratulated the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of
Slavery on its excellent report. She too appreciated the contributions made
by NGOs, which had done a lot to combat slavery. The important action and
cooperation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) particularly in the
areas of debt bondage and child labour, was welcome. In that regard, the
Sub-Commission should seriously consider the situation in the Sudan, where
there were a number of child soldiers and child slaves, and in Myanmar, where
there was systematic use of forced labour involving children, particularly for
infrastructure projects.
29. The report on the situation of systematic rape, sexual slavery and
slavery-like practices during periods of armed conflict was also extremely
interesting. With regard to Japan, nothing had been done to compensate the
prisoners of war who had been turned into slaves during the war. However,
positive, if still inadequate, steps had been taken by the Japanese Government
in regard to the “comfort women”. Although at first she had been somewhat
sceptical about the use of private funds to compensate victims, she had since
changed her mind and now believed that the establishment of such a fund would
enable the Japanese public to participate. Accordingly, it should not be
forgotten that an unshakeable commitment to principles was often the worst
enemy of peace. It so happened that the Government had adopted a particularly
rigid attitude in legal terms, because it believed that all of the problems
had been settled by treaties concluded after the war. On their side, the
victims had also adopted a position of principle and felt that they would not
recover their dignity unless the Government compensated them and officially
recognized its responsibility. In her opinion, both parties were wrong. The
best solution would be for the Japanese Government to pay the victims a token
amount for their rehabilitation. In any event, the question should remain
under consideration and the Sub-Commission should encourage the Government to
pursue its efforts to solve the problem, especially as the victims were
already relatively elderly.
30. Mr. LINDGREN ALVES said that, unlike Mr. Bossuyt, he supported the idea
of asking the private sector to contribute to the United Nations Voluntary
Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. States appeared to be incapable
of solving the great problems of society at present, and he did not see why
international civil society could not contribute to such a positive
31. At previous sessions he had expressed doubts as to the existence of a
traffic in human organs and tissue. It was gratifying that some experts had
taken note of the information from Interpol that there was no certainty and no
tangible proof of such traffic.
32. Regarding the question of forced labour, the notion of the
indivisibility of human rights must not be lost sight of. Even if there was
no question of militating on behalf of a new world economic order, it was
still true that civil and political rights could not be respected in the
absence of economic, social and cultural rights. The market culture currently
under development was primarily responsible for a situation in which, for
example, there were cases of forced labour. It was to be hoped that the
Sub-Commission would not go along with the trend of attaching less importance
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to economic, social and cultural rights, and that at its next session it would
devote more time to that aspect of human rights.
33. Mr. EL-HAJJE said the report on the situation of systematic rape, sexual
slavery and slavery-like practices during periods of armed conflict was
extremely interesting, but a number of the subjects it dealt with had already
been covered by other international forums. In order to avoid duplication and
repetition, the final report should focus on the causes, consequences and
means of preventing such practices.
34. Mr. SOKHONA (Observer for Mauritania), speaking in exercise of the right
of reply, said with regard to the information contained in paragraphs 100
to 103 of the report of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery,
that slavery was a historical phenomenon that all countries in the
Sudano-Sahelian region had known. It had disappeared little by little under
the influence of the gradual deterioration of the traditional system once it
came into contact with modern ideas, economic and social transformations,
and thanks also to the actions of the public authorities. At present, in
Mauritania the descendants of former slaves enjoyed the same rights as did the
rest of the population. The Mauritanian Government endeavoured to meet all
the needs of all its citizens, whatever their origin. To combat the
after-effects of slavery, social and economic development should be pursued
and democracy guaranteed. That was what the Mauritanian authorities were
attempting to do. It was regrettable that some people were using the topic of
slavery for personal ends, but Mauritania would continue to make every effort
to improve the economic, social and intellectual level of all Mauritanians.
35. Mrs. EL-HAJJAJI (Observer for the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), recalling
that Libya had been behind the Proclamation of 1981 as the International Year
of Disabled Persons, said that her country was doing a lot for disabled
persons. It was providing them with housing and land, implementing
educational and reinsertion programmes, guaranteeing work suitable to those
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who were able to work and gave tax exemptions on special equipment for the
disabled. Libya respected the dignity of persons with disabilities and
considered that they should be treated equally and had a role to play in
36. Pointing out that the majority of disabled persons in Libya were victims
of the Second World War, she appealed to the international community to
cooperate with her country in eliminating the after-effects of that war,
calling for assistance from the States responsible. Just when Libya had been
in the process of acceding to international human rights instruments, the
Security Council had decided to impose sanctions against it, which had
prevented it from respecting its obligations under those instruments. The
imposition of the sanctions, which complicated in particular the supply of
vaccines, had led to an increased number of disabled persons in Libya and made
it difficult to obtain re-education material. A study should be undertaken of
the consequences of the Security Council sanctions on vulnerable groups of
society. Libya also appealed to the international community to renounce its
policy of sanctions, as that policy hindered the enjoyment of human rights and
fundamental freedoms and was responsible for the increased number of
disabilities. Her Government had read with interest the report on human
rights and disability (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/27) and supported the recommendations
it contained therein. As to the need to provide information on measures taken
to alleviate the suffering of persons with disabilities, an exemption should
be given to those States who had suffered embargoes imposed by the Security
Council. Rather those States should provide information on the effects of the
sanctions on their population. It was time to put an end to internal wars,
which had serious consequences for the population.
37. Mr. AL-DORY (Observer for Iraq) said that the considerable efforts his
country had exerted to improve the situation of children in social, economic,
cultural and health terms had come to nought because of the economic blockade
imposed since 1990. The health situation was continually deteriorating and,
according to the Assistant Regional Director of the World Health
Organization (WHO), Iraq was 50 years behind. All the health indicators were
alarming: infant and post-infant mortality rates had risen respectively
from 28 to 64 per thousand and 48 to 80 per thousand between 1990 and 1994 as
a result of malnutrition and a strong increase in infectious diseases.
38. The continuation of the blockade also had psychological, social and
educational ramifications for Iraqi families and children, who suffered from
deprivations and frustrations. A large number of children were also forced to
leave school and work in order to help their families. Children deprived of
their most basic needs could be neither mature nor productive. They would not
be able to protect their rights or respect those of others. His Government
hoped that the Sub-Commission would help to put an end to the suffering of
Iraqi children and to the violations against them.
39. Mr. NAZARIAN (Observer for Armenia) said that, from the very moment
Armenia had regained its independence, it had demonstrated its adherence to
democratic values and the rule of law. Parliament and the President of the
Republic had been elected in free and regular elections, and the first-ever
Armenian Constitution, adopted by referendum on 5 July 1995, guaranteed
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respect for all human rights and filled a gap in the law by allowing the
legislature to enact laws aimed expressly at protecting human rights. The law
had been progressively amended and brought into line with international norms,
and Armenia had acceded to a number of international human rights instruments.
Another step towards democracy had been the creation in Yerevan in autumn 1995
of the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights. The Centre, financed by
international donors, was entirely independent of the Government but
cooperated with government bodies. Among other initiatives, it had permitted
the inspection of penal institutions by human rights experts, journalists and
representatives of NGOs. The establishment on 6 February 1996 of the
Constitutional Court had been the first of the radical reforms undertaken at
the judicial level. In recognition of Armenia’s achievements in promoting and
protecting human rights, the Council of Europe had granted it special guest
status in January 1996.
40. The Armenian Government realized that the protection of human rights was
an unending process. Human rights violations occurred in Armenia, as in all
countries. Each case was examined thoroughly by the competent authorities and
the guilty were punished, with further measures taken to prevent future
infringements. In addition to the alignment of national legislation with
international norms and the adoption of laws and regulations aimed at ensuring
the implementation of the international human rights instruments, the
Government had taken steps to monitor compliance with the law by citizens and
government bodies and to educate the people through broad dissemination of
information on human rights issues.
41. Mr. AL-HADDAD (Observer for Bahrain), speaking in exercise of the right
of reply, said that the information provided about his country earlier by the
World Organization against Torture was incorrect. Bahrain had submitted
comprehensive information on the question of torture to the Commission on
Human Rights at its later session. It should be remembered that, for more
than two years, Bahrain had been a victim of a plot by certain terrorists who
resorted to violence and terror in trying to overthrow the regime. Those
terrorists, who were trained in Iran and in the Bekaa and received their
instructions from London, carried out all manner of attacks which left
numerous victims among the innocent population. His Government would spare no
effort to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights. It intended to
develop its system of consultations and had recently divided the country into
districts in order better to ensure the protection of those rights. The
people of Bahrain were tolerant, and they rejected violence and terrorism.
42. The CHAIRMAN said that the Sub-Commission had thus concluded its
consideration of agenda items 15 and 16.
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/23 and E/CN.4/1995/74)
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(agenda item 19)
43. Mr. WEISSBRODT, addressing one particular aspect of the question of
human rights and scientific and technological developments, said that the
Internet and the new system of electronic communications known as the World
Wide Web presented not just risks but also some very interesting possibilities
for human rights education and the dissemination of human rights materials.
If the Web remained beyond the financial and material reach of most people,
millions of people throughout the world - and not just in the most developed
countries, but also in such countries as Bangladesh, Egypt, Kazakstan, Uganda
and Uruguay - could consult it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for
information on human rights.
44. The human rights library, which allowed free access on the Internet,
contained the texts of more than 90 international human rights instruments in
English, French and Spanish, as well as information on the ratification of
those instruments and the work of the United Nations human rights bodies,
including reports of the Sub-Commission and the thematic and country reports
of the Commission on Human Rights. It was also possible to consult the full
text of general comments and recommendations of all six human rights
treaty-monitoring bodies, the decisions of the Human Rights Committee over the
past five years, information on the work of the International Criminal
Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the decisions and advisory
opinions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights. The bibliography contained much that was
otherwise difficult to access in regular libraries.
45. Many international and non-governmental organizations used the Web to
provide information about their activities. UNHCR had been a pioneer in that
regard. The United Nations Department of Public Information distributed the
daily press releases of the Sub-Commission through the Web. Since books were
increasingly expensive and often difficult to obtain, the Web offered an
alternative form of communication. It was particularly useful for those who
were beginning to use electronic mail and computers in their research and work
on human rights.
46. He appreciated the work done by Mr. Eide and others to develop minimum
humanitarian standards concerning respect for human rights in times of
conflict. It was a very important issue and he hoped the seminar to take
place shortly in South Africa would be fruitful. It was important to fill a
gap in the United Nations machinery, which had no body entrusted with
monitoring implementation of humanitarian norms.
47. Mr. TEITELBAUM (Association of American Jurists), speaking on
agenda item 19, said it was regrettable that on two occasions the Commission
on Human Rights had decided not to transmit to the Economic and Social Council
a draft decision of the Sub-Commission authorizing a study of the question of
the implications for human rights of United Nations action, including
humanitarian assistance, to deal with international humanitarian problems,
which in his view included so-called “peace-keeping” operations.
48. Such a study, for which Mrs. Palley had paved the way with her working
paper E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/39, would help to determine who was empowered to
allocate responsibilities and order damages to be paid for injuries done to
civilians as a result of violations of humanitarian law committed during
certain operations, for example in Iraq. After the operation in that country,
by its resolution 687 (1991) the Security Council had decided, with the
support of the Secretary-General (document S/22559) and in defiance of general
principles of law, to determine through its Compensation Commission who should
be compensated. It should be recalled that the case of Iraqi civilians who
had been the victims of those violations had not been taken into
consideration. The study could also determine whether economic sanctions
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approved by one or more States, such as the Helms-Burton Act, outside of the
competent bodies of the United Nations, because the State in question was
violating human rights, were in keeping with international law.
49. At the initiative of the United States delegation, the Commission on
Human Rights had rejected the idea of such a study, on the grounds that the
Sub-Commission should avoid passing judgement on matters that came under the
competence of other United Nations bodies. His organization believed that the
delimitation of the respective spheres of competence of various United Nations
bodies and the Sub-Commission's faculty under its mandate to conduct studies
and pass judgement on anything to do with human rights should not be confused.
A United Nations body or an agency could also violate those rights and in that
regard did not enjoy any particular immunity, as was apparent from the
Advisory Opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice on
11 April 1949. Because its expert members were independent, the
Sub-Commission was undoubtedly the most appropriate body to denounce such
50. In view of that unacceptable act of censorship by the Commission, the
Sub-Commission should decide to entrust the study to Mrs. Palley, if necessary
without any financial implications.
51. Mrs. PARKER (International Educational Development), speaking on agenda
items 13 and 19, expressed her dismay at the fact that, under pressure from
the United States Government, the Commission on Human Rights had rejected the
draft study on the implications of humanitarian activities on the enjoyment of
human rights. It was an attempt to limit the freedom of expression of the
Sub-Commission, which was composed of independent experts and was competent to
consider any issue pertaining to human rights.
52. The action of the United Nations could have consequences on human
rights, as illustrated for example by recent events in Cyprus, in which two
Cypriot demonstrators had been killed and several United Nations peace-keepers
wounded. The Sub-Commission should look at the consequences of the occupation
of a part of Cyprus, one which was continuing despite the resolutions of the
United Nations and which had led to those tragic events. It could also
consider the situation of persons abandoned to their fate by the
United Nations, for example the Moluccans and Ache people, or the Kashmiris.
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53. The attitude of the Commission on Human Rights was perhaps related to
the existence of sanctions imposed on certain countries, Iraq in particular.
Some Governments did not want the experts to consider the consequences of
those sanctions on the fundamental rights of civilian populations,
particularly the right to adequate food and medical care.
54. In a resolution adopted at a meeting chaired by
Mrs. Margarita Papandreou (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/NGO/7), several NGOs had
expressed a wish for the International Court of Justice to render an advisory
opinion on the legality of the present sanctions against Iraq. The
Sub-Commission had full authority to address such issues and she urged it
to do so.
55. Mrs. GRAF (International League for the Rights and Liberation of
Peoples) said that in Kosovo, the rights of Albanians, who accounted
for 90 per cent of the population, were being violated by the Serbian
authorities. Recently, the Serbian police had used the pretext of the murder
of five Serbs to carry out punitive expeditions against the Albanian
population, although there was no proof that the murders had been committed by
Albanians. The international community should help the Albanians in their
efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the question of Kosovo. If a
conflict erupted in that region, it might take on international dimensions.
56. The conflict in Nagorny Karabakh threatened peace in the Caucasus
region: at the time of perestroika, the Azerbaijani authorities had responded
with violence to the demands of the Armenians, who had been living in the
region since time immemorial. To safeguard their right to life, the Armenians
had had to wage a war that had lasted for three years and resulted in tens of
thousands of deaths on both sides. Thanks to the efforts of the
Russian Federation and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE), a cease-fire had been declared in 1994. When the elected
authorities of Nagorny Karabakh had attempted to convert that tenuous
cease-fire into a lasting peace, the President of Azerbaijan had said he was
prepared to recover the territories with the use of force. Her organization
urged the Sub-Commission to encourage the search for a peaceful solution to
the problem of Nagorny Karabakh and to take steps to ensure the safety of the
57. Mr. AHLUWARIA (Liberation), speaking on agenda item 13, said that for
the past 15 years the Punjab, in India, had been the scene of enormous
violence, resulting in the death of 44,000 Sikhs and the disappearance
of 20,000 others. The Sikhs were concerned for the preservation of their
religious identity and also favoured the promotion of an egalitarian society.
Consequently, they were opposed to the caste theory and fundamentalism.
58. The Sikhs were very committed to their religion and to their sacred
temples, or Gurdwaras, particularly the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Yet the
State was now endeavouring to call into question the All India Gurdwaras Act,
which since 1925 had governed the conditions under which the temples were
managed by the Sikh community. It was unacceptable interference in the
community’s religious and cultural affairs. Sikhs living in other countries
page 15
were being denied visas because of their opinions. His organization believed
that to settle the problem peacefully, the international community, in
cooperation with the Indian Government, must recognize the historic
sovereignty of the Golden Temple, and the State of India must stop interfering
in the religious and cultural affairs of the Sikhs.
59. Only mutual understanding and cooperation among all parties could bring
about a resolution of the religious and ethnic conflicts, thereby ensuring
international peace and stability.
60. Mrs. MONTSERRAT (Pax Romana), speaking on agenda item 13, said that
every month anti-personnel land-mines killed 800 people and mutilated a
thousand others. At the current pace minefields were being cleared, it would
take about a thousand years to defuse them all, assuming that no new mines
were laid. The international community should therefore redouble its efforts
in helping to implement de-mining programmes, such as those undertaken by the
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the dozen countries most affected
by that scourge.
61. Given the meagre results achieved by the Review Conference of the States
Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of
Certain Conventional Weapons which may Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious
or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, she appealed to all countries to adopt, as
Belgium had done, laws prohibiting production and sale of and trade in such
mines, both within and from their territory. Spain, for example, should go
beyond the indefinite moratorium it had decreed on the export of such mines,
which were not in any case of great military value and were used particularly
to terrorize the civilian population. Public opinion called for such a
prohibition. The Partido Popular, which had recently come to power, had even
declared itself in favour of such a prohibition during the election campaign.
Information on the production, stockpiling, trade and use of anti-personnel
mines should be more transparent so that such companies as Explosivos Alaveses
could no longer hide behind industrial secrecy, which only encouraged
violations of human rights, humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights
of the Child.
62. The Sub-Commission should pronounce itself in favour of a total ban on
the trade, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines
and thereby help put an end to the flagrant violation of the fundamental
rights of millions of persons.
63. Mr. YOKOTA said that, a short while ago, someone representing an NGO
had, with regard to one of his statements, publicly cast doubt on his
64. While trying to be as impartial and independent as possible, he found it
necessary to protest strongly against such remarks, which neither a member nor
an alternate member of the Sub-Commission would tolerate. He consequently
demanded that the person in question officially apologize to him in writing.
65. Mrs. WARZAZI assured Mr. Yokota of her full support and recalled that
she herself had been the target of similar allegations, which could only do
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harm to all the NGOs. It would be wise to reflect on how to implement the
Economic and Social Council resolution that defined the rights and obligations
of NGOs in consultative status.
66. The CHAIRMAN said that that resolution would be distributed at the
following meeting. Although NGOs, the majority of which collaborated
constructively with the Sub-Commission, were free to express their opinions,
they were none the less bound to respect the integrity and impartiality of its
experts. He hoped that the person in question would apologize to Mr. Yokota.
The meeting rose at 1.10 p.m.