"Human rights are our common heritage and their realization depends on the contributions
that each and every one of us is willing to make, individually and collectively, now and in the future."

Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2004 - Human Rights Protection a must, UN Independent Experts affirm on Human Rights Day 

The following statement was issued today by 27 Independent Experts of the Commission on Human rights, on the occasion of the United Nations Human Rights Day.

"Over the years, we have witnessed the immense obstacles certain persons and groups face in enjoying their human rights fully. Among the groups most at risk and in need of protection are indigenous peoples, who have suffered perennial prejudice and discrimination.

Human Rights Day coincides this year with the end of the First International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. In many countries indigenous peoples are the victims of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture, forced evictions and many forms of discrimination, in particular in the administration of justice. In too many places, they also lack access to basic social rights, such as the rights to health, food, culturally appropriate education and adequate housing.

Within the indigenous community, the plight of women and human rights defenders is often exacerbated. Indigenous women face multiple forms of discrimination, both as women and as members of the indigenous community. There must be effective implementation of international human rights laws to eradicate gender-based violence, and tackle its causes effectively.

When they fight for the promotion and protection of human rights, and claim redress for violations they were subjected to, indigenous peoples are, in many parts of the world, specifically targeted and subjected to threats, intimidation, reprisals and attacks.

Indigenous peoples are also often adversely affected by internal displacement and migration. Their social and economic marginalization adds to the risks they face during displacement, and return and resettlement. As migrants, they are in many instances subject to exploitative conditions of work and other forms of abuse.

We strongly believe that human rights education is an essential tool to address the rising tide of racial discrimination and xenophobia; discrimination that lies beneath the root causes of human rights violations suffered by these groups. Human rights education can constitute an empowering process for those who are marginalized. It is indispensable in bridging the existing protection gap for marginalized groups, who should be fully involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of any educational activity addressing them. In this respect, we welcome the launch today by the General Assembly of a world Programme on Human Rights Education, which will contribute to building a culture of human rights for all.

As we embark on the process of defining the goals for a Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, we call on Governments, United Nations agencies and programmes, civil society, the private sector and every individual to focus on the need to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples. Human rights violations remain the main concern for millions of indigenous peoples and thousands of indigenous communities around the world. We urge everyone, civil society, the private sector, the international community and every individual to step up efforts to promote and protect the human rights of indigenous peoples.

The independent experts are:

  • Mr. Emmanuel Akwei, Independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan
  • Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
  • Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan
  • Mr. Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
  • Mr. Doudou Diène, Special Raporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance .
  • Mr. John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967
  • Ms. Yakin Ertürk, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
  • Ms. Sigma Huda, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children
  • Mr. Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • Mr. Okechkuwu Ibeanu, Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights
  • Ms. Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief
  • Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders
  • Mr. Walter Kalin, Representative of the Secretary General on the human rights of internally displaced persons
  • Mr. Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living
  • Mr. Peter Leuprecht, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia
  • Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression
  • Mr. Vernor Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  • Mr. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Ms. Diane Orentlicher, Independent expert to update Set of Principles to combat impunity
  • Mr. Titinga Frédéric Pacéré, Independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Mr. Juan Miguel Petit, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • Ms. Gabriela Rodrígez, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
  • Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
  • Mr. Arjun Sengupta, Independent Expert on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty
  • Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people
  • Mr. Stephen Toope, Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances
  • Mr. Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the right to food