Commission on Human Rights
11 April 2001
Evening and Night
Introductions Made to Reports of Special Rapporteur
on Migrants, Board of Trustees of UN Voluntary
Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
The Commission on Human Rights this evening started its debate on specific groups and individuals, with special emphasis on migrant workers, minorities, mass exoduses and displaced persons, and other vulnerable groups and individuals.
An introduction to the report of Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, read out on her behalf, said that it was clear that many violations of human rights were being committed against migrants, including by non-State actors. The Special Rapporteur urged that countries should ratify international mechanisms that addressed migrants and migration. This mandate, which had given hope to millions of people, could become an effective mechanism.
And an introduction to the report of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, read out on behalf of the Board, said that contemporary forms of slavery included serfdom, forced labour, debt bondage, exploitation of migrant workers, trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage and sale of wives, child labour and servitude. Taking into consideration that the Board at its sixth session had recommended for expenditure almost all funds available in order to be able to fulfill its mandate satisfactorily, the Fund would need new voluntary contributions totalling $ 400,000.
Speaking under the agenda item on specific groups and individuals were Canada, Senegal, Romania, Algeria, South Africa, Costa Rica, Turkey, International Committee of the Red Cross, Singapore, International Labour Office, Morocco, Ireland, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Austria, Azerbaijan, International Organization for Migration, Croatia, Slovakia, Albania, Cyprus, and Finland.
At the beginning of the evening meeting, the Commission concluded its debate on the rights of the child. A long list of non-governmental organizations decried violations of the rights of children. There was repeated condemnation of, among other issues, the Israeli violence against Palestinians in the occupied territories, including Palestinian children; the effect of globalization on children’s rights in developing countries; the effect of the sanctions on children in Iraq; the Chinese educational system for Tibetan children; and Mauritanian children deported to Senegal and Mali. One NGO noted that trafficking of children was a human rights issue and not only an issue of crime prevention and migration. Other issues raised concerned juvenile justice systems, child soldiers, and child labour.
Speaking under the agenda item on the rights of the child were the following NGOs:
Nord-Sud XXI, Federation of Cuban Women, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Franciscans International, All-China Women’s Federation, World Organization against Torture, International Federation Terre des Hommes, World Federation of United Nations Associations, International Save the Children Alliance, Defence for Children International, Femmes Afrique Solidarite, Friends World Committee for Consultation, International Union of Socialist Youth, International Council of Jewish Women, International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty, Arab Organization for Human Rights, Human Rights Advocates, Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, Society for Threatened Peoples, Worldview International Foundation, International Human Rights Law Group, International Federation of Free Trade Unions, Consortium for Street Children, Islamic African Relief Agency, Interfaith International, New Human Rights, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, World Muslim Congress, International Young Catholic Students, World Federation of Democratic Youth, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, and Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru.
The United States, Ethiopia, Iran, South Africa and Mauritania exercised their right of reply under the agenda item on the rights of the child. Turkey and Cyprus exercised their right of reply under the item on specific groups and individuals.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 April, to continue its debate on specific groups and individuals.
Specific groups and individuals
Under this agenda item the Commission has before it a series of documents.
There is a report (E/CN.4/2001/83) of Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, Special Rapporteur on Migrant Workers, which has among its conclusions and recommendations that many serious incidents had occurred recently that had resulted in the deaths of many migrants in side trucks, in the holds of ships, on board rafts or in detention centres when they were trying to escape situations that did not allow them to lead dignified lives; that States which have not done so should ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and that all States should bring their legislation into line with the standards of the Convention; that all States should adopt legislation to prevent trafficking in persons; that Member States of the United Nations should agree to study situations which gave rise to irregular emigration in States of origin, calling for a far-reaching dialogue among countries of origin, transit and destination on the prevention of irregular migration; that joint responsibility in such situations must be brought into play; that States of origin should establish mechanisms to include all citizens as a means of encouraging them not to leave; that information campaigns must be carried out to prevent irregular migration by supplying information on all the risks involved; that border officials should be trained in international standards prohibiting racism and discrimination; and that States must guarantee access to health services for migrants, especially migrant children.
An addendum (Add.1) summarizes a visit by the Special Rapporteur to Canada from 17 to 30 September 2000. Among the document’s conclusions and recommendations are that Canada has had to deal with the widespread problem of trafficking in persons and illegal border crossings assisted by trafficking agents; that under the country’s regulated immigration system, the greatest problem is how to respond to people who arrive spontaneously, whether by normal channels or after travelling in terrible conditions; that the Government should take steps to provide psychological care to persons held in detention centres, to assist those affected by depression, and to ensure that they are not left too long without qualified medical attention; that the Government should seek solutions with host families as a means of keeping minors out of detention centres; and that the Government, civil society, NGOs, and the migrants themselves should combine to combat trafficking in persons and abuse of such persons.
There is a report (E/CN.4/2001/83) of Francis M. Deng, Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, which concludes, among other things, that progress on institutional responses and standard-setting must be translated into improvements on the ground for the protection, assistance and reintegration of the internally displaced; that the Representative had found that his approach of respecting the sovereignty of Governments while underscoring their responsibilities for the internally displaced had proven to be a most constructive basis for dialogues with countries; and that while some questions have lately been raised over the method followed in the development of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, there was widespread consensus on the value of the Principles in offering audience, admittedly as a non-binding document, for ensuring protection and assistance to displaced populations.
An addendum (Add.1) addresses the subject of forced relocation in Burundi, recommending, among other things, that the international community continue to advocate for the cessation of regroupment practices and the dismantling of all regroupment camps; that the Government and international community jointly develop a comprehensive response strategy to meet the needs of regrouped populations; that the Government should communicate to the United Nations and NGOs the locations of the additional 13 sites to be dismantled and should include Kabezi on the list of the first camps to be dismantled, given the grave conditions in the camp, and should also give priority to those sites in remote locations and inaccessible to outside aid; that the Government should ensure urgently that regrouped populations have full access to their agricultural fields at least four times a week, especially in order to enable them to plant crops during the current planting season; and that donors provide support for the needs of regrouped populations and other internally displaced populations and returnees.
An addendum (Add.2) summarizes a regional workshop on internal displacement in the South Caucuses at which participants emphasized, among other things, the highly negative consequences of protracted internal displacement on the region; the high levels of poverty and unemployment in the region, which affect internally displaced persons disproportionately; the growing number of internally displaced children who have had to resort to begging or even criminality; and the disproportionate suffering endured by the women and children who make up the majority of the internally displaced in the region.
An addendum (Add.3) reports on the situation of the internally displaced in Armenia, recommending, among other things, that national awareness of the matter be increased; that voluntariness of return be ensured; that security conditions in areas of return be assessed objectively; that comprehensive de-mining be carried out; that safe access to land be ensured; that reconstruction and rehabilitation in border regions be carried out; and that conflict-resolution efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan be actively supported.
An addendum (Add.4) reports on the situation of the internally displaced in Georgia and recommends, among other things, that the vulnerability and special needs of the internally displaced be acknowledged; that the Government design national policies and legislation in accordance with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement; that the Government ensure the full rights of the internally displaced as citizens; that the Government ensure payment of the stipend to which internally displaced persons are entitled; that it give special attention to the particular needs of women and women-headed households among the displaced; that it uphold the right to return in safety and dignity; and that the Government of Georgia and that of the Russian Federation intensify efforts to resolve conflicts causing internal displacement, especially that in Abkhazia.
A final addendum (Add.5) reports on the situation of the internally displaced in Angola, recommending, among other things, that standard operational procedures be developed to ensure the uniform implementation of norms on resettlement and the involvement of humanitarian organizations in security assessments in the country; that these norms be fully implemented within security perimeters; that there be increased engagement of the Government and donors in humanitarian response to the existing situation; that there be more effective coordination of the humanitarian response; that there be agreed criteria for targeting food distributions; that there be adequate maintenance and repair of airstrips and provision of logistical capacity for humanitarian operations; that primary and secondary education be provided to internally displaced children; and that awareness be increased of abuses against displaced children.
There is a report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2001/80) on protection of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS which lists 12 guidelines on the subject and summarizes policies and activities of United Nations bodies and programmes relating to the promotion and protection of such rights.
There is a report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2001/79) on the status of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families which notes among other things that as of 15 November 2000, 15 States had ratified the Convention, and an additional 10 had signed it; and that the Convention will enter into force when at least 20 States have ratified or acceded to it.
There is a report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2001/81) on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities which reviews expertise on minority issues made available to Governments; aspects of the topic to be brought up at the World Conference against Racism; participation in the Working Group on Minorities; promotion and implementation of the Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to minorities; and organization of a seminar to discuss issues concerning the protection of minorities.
There is a report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/2001/82) and an Addendum (Add.1) on the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, which lists beneficiaries of the fund, contributions, recommendations adopted by the fifth session of the Fund’s Board of Trustees; reports on recommendations for grants; and provides updated information on fund-raising.
The Commission also has before it reports previously submitted to the 2000 session of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. These relate to the Working Group on contemporary forms of slavery (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/23); the Working Group on minorities (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/27); and a working paper by Subcommission Expert Y.K.J- Yeung Sik Yuen on human-rights problems and protection of the Roma (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/28).
Statements under the agenda item on the rights of the child
IRENE BRUSCA, of Nord-Sud XXI, noted the ongoing brutal onslaught by Israeli forces against the Palestinian civilian population, including children. This had resulted in an alarming deterioration of the respect for international human rights standards and instruments ratified by the Government of Israel. Israel had justified today many of its actions in the name of security, however, as long as systematic State-imposed human rights violations continued against the Palestinian people, peace and security would not be attained. To date, Israeli forces had killed 397 Palestinians, of whom 104 were under 18 years of age. Over 6,000 children were injured, and many of these children would be permanently disabled. The international community should ensure that Israel abide by provisions of international humanitarian law and human rights instruments that the State had ratified, and it should ensure international protection for the Palestinian people by pushing for the creation of an international protection force by the Security Council to be deployed in the occupied territories.
BORIS CASTILLO BARROSO, of Federation of Cuban Women, said that between 1987 and 1998, two out of five children had suffered from stunted growth in the underdeveloped world and one out of three was underweight. Currently, more than 800,000 million people suffered chronic hunger and lacked basic access to health care. It was estimated that 507 million people in the Third World did not survive the age of 40. The widening of the economic, scientific and technical gap between the countries of the North and the South; the abysmal gap between the rich and the poor within countries; and the irrational and irreversible destruction of the environment and non-renewable natural resources jeopardized the world for future generations. This situation was aggravated by the imposition and instrumentalization of a hegemonistic neo-liberal project of globalization imposed by North American imperialism and its transnational allies who disregarded the principles of independence, sovereignty and self-determination of States.
ELIAS KHOURI, of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said in a joint statement that the children of Iraq had been victims of the unfair embargo against that country for the last 10 years. Palestinian children were victims of the Israeli occupation and its military actions. In Iraq, statistics showed that a child under five died every seven minutes. The destruction of schools had reduced the quality of education. Many children -- 53 per cent -- no longer attended schools. Before 1991, Iraq's educational system had been one of the most developed in the Middle East. The destruction of the Iraqi people was being carried out under the cover of the UN Security Council. Almost every day the people of Iraq suffered from bombardment by the United States and British forces. The World Health Organization was concerned about the use of depleted uranium during the Gulf War by the United States on the Iraqi people. The Commission should adopt a resolution calling for the abolition of the embargo on Iraq.
PHILIPPE LEBLANC, of Franciscans International, said that sanctions against Iraq had resulted in untold suffering for millions of people - physical, mental and cultural. The violations of the rights of Iraqi children had been described in a number of United Nations reports and had also led to the resignation of three senior United Nations personnel who were responsible for the humanitarian program in Iraq. In spite of numerous reports from the United Nations and other agencies, nothing had been done to put an end to the violations of the most fundamental rights of the children of Iraq. The humanitarian disaster was such that more than 500,000 children under five years had died as a result of the embargo between 1991 and 1995. There were still 5,000 children dying every month in Iraq. The 1999 UNICEF report and mortality surveys showed that in marked contrast to the prevailing situation prior to the events of 1990-1991, the infant mortality rates in Iraq today were among the highest in the world. A whole generation of children born after the war had been deprived over a period of ten years of the right to adequate food which would allow them to develop normally. In addition to the effects of sanctions, there was the effect of depleted uranium.
LI XIAOKE, of All-China Women's Federation, said the infringement of children's rights was still rampant in the world. To look deeper into the violations of children's rights, the Federation found that the phenomena did not fall into categories by division of social systems. It was said that the United States was the heaven of children. But Chinese children were enjoying a happy life as well. Not a single State in the world practised a perfect system. Among the few countries that had not acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the United States. Inside American society, the infringements of children's rights were countless.
It was indisputable that family was the basic unit of society, which shouldered the responsibility of providing children with happy, caring and supportive surroundings so as to enable the healthy growth and development of children in society. How many practitioners of Falun Gong were concerned with children's healthy growth and development? To protect children's rights and interests was the unshakable responsibility and obligation of each Government, international organization and NGO. The Federation sincerely hoped the Chinese Government would make every effort to protect children's rights from the evil influence and harmful conduct of cults.
ROBERTA CECCHETTI, of World Organization against Torture, said that in the last five years, the Organization had documented and acted on more than 2,300 cases of torture, summary executions, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and other more subtle forms of violence and repression against children. Ill-treatment of children at the hand of agents of the State or ill-treatment that was tolerated by the State still existed in many regions of the world and it would be a mistake to consider cases of torture and ill-treatment as sporadic and isolated acts. The attention of the Commission was drawn to the situation of children in Ethiopia, where ethnic and religious conflicts were still occurring in different parts of the country. In Guatemala, the situation of street children was of utmost concern. Most street children had been exposed to violence and abuses of all sorts. They were left to themselves on the streets, condemned to an incessant struggle for bare survival and exposed to the brutality of the police. Concern was also expressed at the situation of street children in the Spanish autonomous communities of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco. Another issue of grave concern was the imposition and execution of the death penalty on children, especially in the United States.
SALVATORE PARRATA, of the International Federation Terre des Hommes, said the Federation had contributed to a study on the trafficking of children for purposes of sexual exploitation in South Africa. A growing concern about the increase in child prostitution was the primary motivation for the study, and both in-country and cross-border trafficking had been examined. The main findings showed that the trafficking of South African children was predominantly an in-country phenomenon. Parents and local gangs were the primary traffickers, sometimes in collusion with each other. With regards to the cross-border trafficking of children, the problem had been identified as affecting countries in the region such as Mozambique, Zambia and Angola. Child trafficking was a human rights issue and not only an issue of crime prevention and migration. The Commission should take all necessary measures within its field of competence to ensure that the true perpetrators of child trafficking were effectively prosecuted. It further recommended that a body be established to implement and monitor policy to combat child trafficking.
L. H. HORACE PERERA, of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, hailed the adoption by the General Assembly of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Those two Optional Protocols, together with the adoption in June 1999 of ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, were important landmarks in international efforts to protect children. It was the responsibility of all international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to stimulate their national affiliates to cooperate with the national coalitions on the rights of the child, set up under the auspices of the NGO committee on the rights of the child, and urge Governments to ratify the Optional Protocols. In addition, in order to ensure for each child access to quality education, third world countries needed to make education a constitutional right.
ANNIKA MALMBORG, of the International Save the Children Alliance, said it was unacceptable that corporal punishment in schools and care institutions was still legal in at least one-third of the world's countries. In a number of countries the State still sanctioned flogging as a sentence for juvenile offenders, and the use of corporal punishment was authorized as a method for punishment in penal institutions and in homes. Corporal punishment of children was in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as a number of international human rights instruments. So far, less than 10 States had explicitly banned all forms of corporal punishment, including in the home. The UN General Assembly was urged to conduct an in-depth international study on the issue of violence against children with a focus on corporal punishment in institutions, schools and in the home. Governments were urged to review national legislation, government policies and procedures to ensure that States were in a position to ensure a complete ban on corporal punishment, and to set a timetable for removing any legal defence which justified corporal punishment of children.
ELSIE WEIJSENFELD, of Defence for Children International, said that juvenile justice was a children's rights issue and was closely related to other children's rights issues under discussion. In spite of the Commission's clear and decisive call, the situation of children deprived of their liberty had deteriorated significantly in many States. The pioneering work of the founders of the first children's court could be seen as creating a wall to protect children from the retributive policies of the adult system. A child was acknowledged different and in need of rehabilitation to assume a constructive role in society. Since 1899, specialized courts and juvenile justice programmes for children had been established in many countries. The UN had played its part in addressing those issues at the UN Congress on the Prevention and Treatment of Crime, in Geneva, in 1955, and had adopted important rules and guidelines. In many States, the young offenders were treated as adults, without regard to their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
BRIDGET SANWOGOU, of Femmes Afrique Solidarite, said the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child raised the minimum age of recruitment from 15 to 18. Seventy-five States had agreed to it, but only three had signed it. It was believed that more than 120,000 under the age of 18 were participating in armed conflicts in Africa. In Sierra Leone alone, it was reported, over 12,000 children, some as young as seven, were abducted and made to fight in armed conflicts. The Special Rapporteur said girls also participated -- either voluntarily, or by force. They suffered the same problems as other child soldiers, but also suffered gender-specific violations, including rape and prostitution. It was clear that the international law drafted by the United Nations was not being respected. States should sign the Optional Protocol.
RACHEL BRETT, of Friends World Committee for Consultation, said that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on involvement of children in armed conflict would strengthen the protection of children's rights by raising from 15 to 18 years the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for compulsory recruitment, and for any recruitment or use in hostilities by non-State Armed groups. The Committee opposed any recruitment of any child under 18 years of age, not as a matter of principle but also because of the difficulty of ensuring that they did not participate in hostilities. It also called upon all Governments and armed groups which currently recruited children to stop doing so and to demobilize those who were already under their jurisdiction. It was important to recognize that children would not be encouraged to leave armed groups unless they were assured of physical protection.
LOBSANG NYANDAK, of the International Union of Socialist Youth, said that of the 2,660 Tibetan refugees who had fled Tibet in 2000, 900 were children below the age of 18. The hazardous flight over the Himalayas in peak winter did little to dampen the spirit of these children, who were mostly unaccompanied by their parents and were making the trek in the hope of gaining educational opportunities. Children in Tibet were at the receiving end of an increasingly discriminatory educational system. Not only did the school curriculum lack Tibetan content, but also the medium of instruction was Chinese in most schools, save for the initial three years in a primary school. The most common reasons for lack of education were a lack of realistic schooling facilities, discriminatory practices, exorbitant fees demanded, and an overriding concept of futility due to the lack of employment or further educational opportunities upon the completion of study. Tibetan children in Tibet were subjected to physical torture, a discriminatory educational system that denigrated their language, culture and values, and a health care system that neglected their most basic medical needs. The Commission should adopt a resolution calling on the Chinese Government to take steps to ensure the fundamental rights of Tibetan children
REBECCA MUHLETHALER, of the International Council of Jewish Women, said that several speakers had alluded to violations of the right to education of children in the "occupied Arab territories". Yet it was more alarming to allow those same children to risk their lives by participating in the violence taking place in the field. Not only were they participating in the process of the violence, they were also inculcated with hatred against the demonized "enemy". The irresponsible adults did not hesitate to use children as instruments to achieve their political goals and to satisfy their exacerbated passions. The inculcation of children with hate and violence should be stopped. The right of children to education should not be based on violence; and it should be education for peace.
WILFRED WONG, of the International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty, said that in some parts of the world, the impact of Islamic militancy on children was especially devastating. In countries such as Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt and in the Moluccas islands of Indonesia, it was not unusual for Christian children, especially girls, to be kidnapped by militant Muslims and even raped and then forced to convert to Islam. For example, a Christian girl, Nadia Klaimason, 15, was recently abducted in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The Pakistani police were unlikely to take any action to restore Nadia to her family since they had been bribed. In Sudan, pro-government militias were routinely permitted by the authorities to attack civilians with impunity. The barbaric practice of slavery in Sudan had yet to be stopped and the Sudanese Government must disarm all its militias and punish those responsible for enslaving thousands of non-Muslims. In the Moluccas islands of Indonesia, many children had been among those thousands of Christians forced by Islamic militants such as the Laskar Jihad to covert to Islam. And in Egypt, 16-year-old Suhir Shihata Gouda, an Egyptian Christian girl, was kidnapped by a group of Muslims who forced her to marry a Muslim man and to convert to Islam. The Commission should put strong pressure on the Governments of Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt, Indonesia, Burma and Viet Nam to stop the religious persecution which was having such a harmful impact on many children in these countries.
NAZAR ABDELGADIR, of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said that Palestinian children had been the targets of Israeli bullets. Several children had been deliberately killed on their way to school. The act of Israeli forces was a genocide and a crime which should be condemned by the international community. Attention should also be paid to the situation of Iraqi children who were suffering from the sanctions imposed against the Iraqi people. The number of children dying because of the embargo had been rising since 1990. The rate of maternal death and infant mortality had increased The basic necessities which were needed for children were lacking. The Commission should do its utmost in repeal the sanctions and to allow Iraqi children to enjoy their rights.
MARIA C. WILLIAMS, of Human Rights Advocates, said that the violation of the juvenile death penalty was of great concern to the Commission. The organization commended the Commission on its application of pressure on States to comply with the prohibition on the juvenile death penalty. Due to the strong stance taken by the Commission in the past five years, the use of juvenile death penalty had been nearly eradicated worldwide.
From 1990 to 2000, there were seven countries that executed offenders who were under eighteen at the time of their offense. In the past three years, the number of countries that practised such executions had decreased. Since 1998, the countries known to have executed juvenile offenders were the United States, Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The most egregious violator was the United States. Due to the efforts of the international community, States had changed their laws to comply with the international law prohibiting the death penalty for juveniles.
K. WARIKOO, of the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, said that violence against children was prevalent in many parts of the globe. According to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children in armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, an estimated 300,000 children under the age of 18 had been taking part in hostilities in over 30 countries. It was sad to note that during those ten years, more than 2 million children were reported to have been killed in armed conflicts worldwide. Children throughout the world were being subjected to violence that resulted in physical injury, psychological trauma and even death.
The Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation had been for the past few years organizing seminars and conducting field studies and workshops on issues relating to problems of children in general and child labour in particular. Far removed from the problems regarding child labour and educational deprivation, the children in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir had been suffering atrocities at the hands of terrorists during the past decade. Similarly, the plight of children belonging to the minority Kashmiri Hindu community, which was forced to migrate from Kashmir in and after 1989, was far worse.
JOHN NEELSEN, of the Society for Threatened Peoples, said that in Sudan, increasing numbers of children were being killed and injured during the bombing of civilian targets. The children experienced terror caused by the Sudanese Government's air raids in a particularly vivid fashion and suffered traumatisation. The parents, fearing air raids, refused to let children attend school and kindergarten. If they fell ill, they were not taken to the doctor or to hospital. Their already precarious humanitarian and health care situation had been rendered even more intolerable as a result of the air raids. Foreign relief and aid agencies were withdrawing their staff from the crisis region and sick people were avoiding hospitals. The Society was appealing to the Commission to endeavour to secure an immediate halt to the bombing of civilian targets by the Sudanese air force and to have no-fly zones established in southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains.
THAUNG HTUN, of Worldview International Foundation, said millions of children were being deprived of access to food, health and education and were dying because of starvation and even from preventable diseases. Burma was a young demographic structure with an estimated 36 per cent of its population under 15 years of age. Among other problems, about 175,000 children under five died each year, mostly from readily preventable or treatable diseases; an appalling 10 per cent of children under three suffered from severe malnutrition; and less than 20 per cent of primary school children completed all five years. All these problems were linked to one common factor, chronic and malignant failure by the State to provide the survival, protection and development needs of children. This failure was directly linked to the ongoing civil war between the military regime and armed ethnic groups demanding greater autonomy. The Commission should encourage all leaders of parties involved in the conflict to design a nationwide humanitarian cease-fire or days of tranquilly to allow for a massive immunization programme and to integrate the agenda of children in the peace making and peace building process.
HELEN BASH-TAQI, of the International Human Rights Law Group, said she was speaking on behalf of thousands of Sierra Leonean children who continued to be held by armed forces in the country, and who were at present being recruited and conscripted as combatants to fight in neighbouring Guinea. Since hostilities began in Guinea in September 2000, deliberate and summary execution, and torture of Sierra Leonean refugees especially young boys and girls, had been reported. The Guinean military was engaged in the bombing of areas in Sierra Leone. That situation had resulted in the displacement of the civilian population in those areas, and babies as young as 9 months old were reported killed and wounded. There was an emerging humanitarian crisis as the displaced and fleeing refugees from Guinea included hundreds of unaccompanied children who now lived in extremely deplorable conditions with no access to health facilities and adequate food.
MARIE THERESE BELLAMY, of the International Federation of Free Trade Unions, said at least 250 million children under the age of 14 were working, according to International Labour Organization estimates, and many worked under very dangerous conditions. Despite efforts to combat this problem, much remained to be done. In Bangladesh, it was feared that the unbridled liberalization of the textile sector could increase exploitation of child labour in that industry. Enterprises and multi-national corporations were urged to do all they could to eradicate child labour. A petition being circulated around the world asked these corporations to stop hiring children, and to remove children who were working for them. One of the objectives of the world campaign was to promote ratification of ILO Conventions on child labour. NGOs had put forward one of the essential elements to break the vicious circle of poverty -- namely education. The Federation was working with the World Bank to end entrance fees in primary education. Education for everyone was not an impossible mission. Education for everyone would cost $8 million a year -- the cost of four days of military funding around the world.
MARIE WERMHAM, of the Consortium for Street Children, said the majority of street-living children had been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and neglect to such a severe degree that life on the streets, with all its obvious dangers, seemed preferable. Once on the street they were subjected to routine violence, sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of the police and others, as well as grave violations of their rights in juvenile justice systems. Those grave human rights violations were ongoing in spite of near universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They were so widespread and severe that they required immediate and more sustained and coordinated international action. In the light of that, the Consortium welcomed the proposed study on violence against children to which it would hope to be able to contribute.
FATH ELRAHMAN ELGADY, of the Islamic African Relief Agency, said the problem of detained and unaccompanied minors was one of the most serious spillovers of the war imposed on southern Sudan. The tragedy of those children who were abducted by the rebel movement was growing every day. These children had been suffering from a perpetrating tragedy for more than 10 years. The incidence of abduction and military conscription of minors by the rebel movement had caused great damage to the children. The tiresome journey that children endured had caused tens of thousands of children in armed conflicts to die from hunger, thirst, disease and attacks from wild animals. Thousands were recruited as child soldiers and killed in the fighting. Four thousand Sudanese unaccompanied minors had been moved from refugee camps to the United States without holding consultations with concerned authorities or even taking the consent of their families in Sudan. There was no doubt that such an operation, of which UNHCR was a part, constituted a serious violation of its regulations, as well as the rights of children enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child..
VIJAY SAZAWAL, of Interfaith International, said that the issues pertaining to the children affected by armed conflict in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir were diverse. There had been a gradual increase in the abduction of Muslim children from their families. They were forcefully taken to training camps and given indoctrination to fight Jihad in Kashmir. The export of "Talibanism" to the state had taken that issue to new proportions with children being recruited by the Fedayeen -- suicide squads. No doubt, the new recruits were not being inducted from overseas diaspora. A recent suicide mission bomber in Kashmir was a 17-year- old Muslim youth from the United Kingdom whose parents were unaware that their son had been recruited for such a mission. Interfaith called upon civilized humanity to respect and protect the rights of children, including those residing in the refugee camps in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.
GABRIELA ARIAS URIBURU’S, of New Human Rights, said her former husband, a native of Jordan, had given up his original citizenship to obtain a Guatemalan one. Although he had sworn to honour the Constitution and the laws of Guatemala, he had abducted their children. Although several legal rulings in Guatemala and in Jordan recognized her rights, her children were still not living with her. In 1998 the Guatemalan Supreme Court had said the children should be reunited with their mother as soon as possible, but no court in Amman had responded. For thousands of children who lived in similar situations, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments were infringed. It had been a year since she had seen her children as they had disappeared again with their father. The address was made with anxiety, but with hope, the same hope the children had, because international obligations had to be obeyed. Childhood was not forever. It would end. Decisions had to be quick, safe and legal. A hurt child could become a hurt adult who could destroy the world.
HORACIO RAVENNA, of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, said that the 1994 revised Constitution of Argentina had accorded constitutional status to the Convention on the Rights of Children. However, the Province of Buenos Aires had been systematically violating the Convention by mistreating children and adolescents. Judges were not using the provisions of the Convention and children were shut in prisons without due consideration for their rights. The prison service had been made to accommodate adults and not juvenile law offenders. The organization also appealed to Jordan to seek a solution to the situation of the three children of Arias Uriburu, who were in Jordan without their mother. The Governments of Argentina and Guatemala together with that of Jordan should find a solution to the problem involving the three children.
SHAH GHULAM QADIR, of the World Muslim Congress, said the worst abuse of the rights of the child was still occurring in situations of armed conflicts or economic sanctions. It was a particularly sad aspect of the perceptions and understanding of armed conflicts around the world that the suffering of children was ignored or marginalized. A large number of children were being seriously affected by armed conflict, many being scarred for life. Children were suffering in more ways than one. First, the nature and scale of physical suffering of the children was heart-rending. There had been reports of Iraqi children being operated on without anaesthesia. There were videos of children without limbs, children who were both blissfully and tragically unaware of what lay ahead for them. National Governments, the World Bank, the European Commission, UNDP, and other relevant UN agencies, bilateral aid agencies, and NGOs should make the needs of children being brought up in armed conflicts a central concern from the outset of their planning, programming and resource allocation process.
ALEXANDRE GUY OWONA, of the International Young Catholic Students, said that his organization lauded the efforts deployed by the international community with the aim of promoting the fundamental rights of children and adolescents. Mauritanians had been victims of deportation during the conflict between Senegal and Mauritania in 1989. They were more than 12,000 children born in 270 refugee camps who were affected by that deportation. The educational system in Mauritania was different from that of their country of origin. The special programme conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had been stopped in 1995, abandoning the Mauritanian refugees and deported children. In addition, the children had been subjected to sexual exploitation and to other illegal activities.
ANJA OKSALAMPI, of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, said the rights of children in slavery were flouted. The Mauritanian Government should be told to respect the rights of refugee children and slave children. There were 12,000 school-age children in refugee camps in Mauritania, and their schooling was very different from Mauritanian schooling. The Governments of Senegal and Mali, which housed these people, were not to blame. Conditions for the girl children were precarious. All children in the camps had an uncertain fate ahead of them. Some 19,000 refugees had returned to Mauritania, but promises of having their houses and jobs returned to them were not realized. After conflicts, priority attention should be given to young people, with thoughts of rebuilding societies and restoring hope.
NAW MU SI, of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, said she had spent most of her life in the refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. As a victim of the half-a-century long civil war, just like other children in the camps, she had personally experienced the impact of the war on the lives of children. Violence and instability had had a considerably negative impact on the situation of children in Burma. Many of them had been subjected to various forms of violations of their rights and had been forced to seek protection as refugees. To flee from one's home was to experience a deep sense of loss, and the decision to flee was not taken lightly. Those who made that decision did so because they were in danger of being killed, tortured, raped, abducted, forcibly recruited, or enslaved.
LAZARO PARY, of the Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, said the exploitation of child labour across the world had reached dramatic heights. The hunger and the thirst of the transnational corporations seeking to maximize profits were showing that they believed the lives of these children were worthless. Two hundred and fifty million children were working in sub-human conditions around the world. One hundred million slept in the streets, and 11 million died every year from curable diseases. In the developing world, 12.2 million children died every year from diseases that came from polluted air and water. According to UNICEF, malnutrition and insufficient nutrition was the hidden famine. Out of 190 million children and teenagers in Latin America, half lived in critical poverty. There was a critical situation with indigenous children in which life expectancy did not exceed 54 years. Genocide was being perpetrated in Iraq. After 10 years, because of the will of the United States, Iraq society was slowly disintegrating. Over 1.5 million people had perished because of the embargo, and in 1998, 200,000 children suffered from malnutrition.
Rights of reply
A Representative of the United States, speaking in exercise of right of reply in reference to the Cuban statement made yesterday, said that the Cuban delegate had exceeded the civility which had to be respected in the Commission. There were standards to be respected contrary to that delegate's attitudes.
A Representative of Ethiopia, exercising a right of reply, said a non-governmental organization had abused this forum by making allegations against Ethiopia. The conflict was not an ethnic conflict, and the people were still living together in peace. The allegation mentioned was an isolated incident. The problem had been resolved by local authorities. The NGO was apparently interested in levying baseless allegation from dubious sources, calling their own credibility into question.
A Representative of Iran, speaking in right of reply in reference to an allegation by an NGO concerning executions, said that juvenile offenders were not subjected to executions but were kept in special centres with the view to rehabilitate them
A Representative of South Africa, exercising a right of reply, said that sadly enough, the South African Government was aware of the existence of the problem of trafficking. It was aware that the problem stemmed from syndicates that operated from Asia. Some South Africans had been influenced to participate in this illegal practice. This ran counter to the principles of South Africans at large.
A Representative of Mauritania, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, refuted the allegations of slavery in his country and said his country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The right to the freedom of movement was guaranteed in the country, however, some segments of the population were influenced by some political groups. Any person was welcome to visit Mauritania and see the reality for himself.
Statements under the agenda item on specific groups and individuals
The introduction to the report of GABRIELA RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, was read out on her behalf. The report described strategies for the full promotion and protection of migrants’ rights. Migration had increased in recent decades, and concern among Governments, civil society, and non-governmental organizations was also growing. It was clear that many violations of human rights were being committed against migrants, including by non-State actors. One of the factors in trafficking in migrants was the lack of channels for regular migration. Migration had been the driving force for development in the developed countries. There should be a dialogue with States that concerned shutting their borders because they feared an influx of undocumented migrants.
With respect to migrant women, there were reports in trafficking of people around the world, and there were programmes to combat this phenomenon. About 47.5 per cent of trafficked persons were women, and about four million were being trafficked. Networks and syndicates deceived and blackmailed people to traffic them. Migrant women were discriminated against twice -- as women, and as foreigners. This was not to belittle them -- they were not weak. They migrated seeking hope, dignity and a decent life, and they deserved a chance to realize this. There were situations where the children of migrants did not have access to health services.
A visit would be undertaken by the Special Rapporteur to Mexico and the United States, and the Philippines had extended an invitation. The first visit had been made to Canada. Other countries should be thanked as well for taking actions that were requested. Countries should ratify international mechanisms that addressed migrants and migration. This mandate, which had given hope to millions of people, could become an effective mechanism. Migration was necessary and effective.
The Secretariat, speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, said the Secretary-General had provided information on the resources that were available to the Fund in 2000 and 2001, the criteria for the selection of beneficiaries, and the travel and project grants recommended by the Board at its sixth session in January 2001. Contemporary forms of slavery included serfdom, forced labour, debt bondage, exploitation of migrant workers, trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage and sale of wives, child labour and servitude. Taking into consideration that the Board at its sixth session had recommended for expenditure almost all funds available in order to be able to fulfill its mandate satisfactorily, the Fund would need new voluntary contributions totalling $ 400,000. As recommended by the Subcommission, such voluntary contributions should be paid before 31 December 2001.
ALAIN TELLIER (Canada) said his country welcomed the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, who had visited Canada as the first country visit of her mandate in September 2000. Canada urged other countries to extend invitations to the Special Rapporteur. Such country specific reviews enabled her to recommend concrete measures to improve migrant rights and also to share best practices with responsible country authorities. In addition, Canada had submitted its written comments on the Special Rapporteur's report to the Commission for circulation.
ANDRE BASSE (Senegal) said that the expression "global village" was used to qualify a contemporary world which could appear to be abstract. However, the idea held the principal factors in which the cost of transport had been reduced by six fold between 1930 and 1990; the telephone bill had dropped by one hundred per cent; and culture had been universalized by the presence of a diaspora in many countries of the world. It was not surprising to note that two million persons crossed borders daily and about 180 million persons lived outside of their countries of origin, and 70 to 80 million were migrant workers. At present, the phenomenon of migration had been important.
Social and economic exclusion, the attraction of the living conditions in the developed countries, the need for labour, armed conflicts and natural disasters were among factors pushing people to migrate. Added to that list, which prompted people to migrate, were religious, ethnic and ideological fundamentalism. Senegal wished that the forthcoming World Conference against Racism be seized with an action which would enable the reduction of the vulnerability of migrants.
ANDA-CHRISTINA FILIP (Romania) said the issue of the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities was of particular importance for the countries in southeastern Europe. For more than a decade, this part of the world had witnessed the dramatic consequences of the political mismanagement of inter-ethnic relations. The cycle of violence had resulted in hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and refugees, affecting each and every country on the European continent. The maintenance of a conflict environment had become a security problem and a threat not only for countries directly involved, but also for the stability of an entire region. These very days, in the midst of continued tension in Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania -- in its capacity as Chairman in Office of the OSCE -- was working closely with its partners in the EU and NATO in an attempt to encourage sound channels of communication, to help build confidence and the culture of cooperation in solving common problems and addressing common concerns.
The Government was of the strong view that the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or religious minorities was one of the most significant aspects in the human rights realm. Over the past years, Romanian society had considerably enhanced the institutional infrastructure and legislative framework to address the legitimate concerns and needs of national minorities and a series of concrete steps and measures had been taken in this direction. At the political level, all national minorities were granted representation in the Parliament. Their representatives were thus ensured a distinct voice in the legislative body and the opportunity to take an active role in the political life of the country, not only in the matters of special interest to them, but also in the general public affairs. Education for national minorities had become a central component for preserving and promoting national identity.
Romania joined a number of other countries of the region as living proof that what was once coined as the "power keg of Europe" did have the chance -- with vision, commitment, hard work and within a comprehensive framework of partnership and integration -- to finally find its way back to the family of free, democratic and prosperous nations.
HOCINE SAHRAOUI (Algeria) said that one of the major concerns which had marked the end of the century remained, without doubt, that of the phenomenon of exile and uprooting of people in the world. The phenomenon, which had several causes, had been exacerbated by certain perverse effects of globalization, recrudescence of armed conflicts and natural disasters. Faced as a challenge to the international community, it required a multi-dimensional approach in which the principles of human rights held a prominent place.
The phenomenon of migration had taken an international dimension in the nineteenth century through colonialism and by the creation of colonial empires. Today, the migrant workers in the developed countries were contributing to the construction of the host States. The phenomenon of globalization would also increase the number of migrants, trafficking in persons, forced exploitation of labour and clandestine migration. In the 1990s, Algeria had hosted displaced people from Mali and Niger and had provided them with asylum, protection and assistance. Algeria called for the international community to mobilize itself on the issue of migration and displaced persons.
KP BRENNAN (South Africa) said the impact of the scourge of HIV/AIDS on vulnerable groups was severe -- 25 million people lived with HIV/AIDS, 2.5 million people died each year, almost four million additional people were infected last year, and 12 million children were orphaned because of the epidemic. These figures far exceeded the worst case scenarios that had been projected by epidemiological models just a few years ago. But even within Africa, there were differences, with Southern Africa being the worst affected. As a young democracy, South Africa knowingly set ambitious targets with the adoption of its new Constitution, because these were the changes that were necessary in order to achieve a just and caring society. In light of its constitutional obligations, the Government had to manage both a transformation agenda and a developmental agenda, within the constraints imposed by limited resources and the demands of a globalized world.
The high cost of pharmaceuticals had long been realized -- it constituted a significant barrier to the delivery of appropriate care for a range of conditions, including HIV/AIDS. The Government since 1997 had pursued a legislative course aimed at securing access to a range of essential medicines. This law was challenged by a number of multinational companies. After a three-year delay, this matter was finally considered by the Supreme Court. The matter was now under subjudice. The Government had a coherent five-year Strategic Plan for combatting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases -- a framework that combined a range of interventions that had proved successful in other countries with controlling the spread of the HIV virus.
This was a war which was killing the young and productive in large numbers. And like all wars, this war had to be fought on all fronts -- in the communities, door to door, and inch by inch. Communities should, however, be supported because there were limits to their resources, especially that crucial component, humanity. A little money and sacrifice could go a long way in preserving this altruistic spirit. Whether developed or developing, everybody was in this war.
EDGAR UGALDE ALVAREZ (Costa Rica) said that migration was beneficial both to the host State and the country of origin. However, policies guaranteeing the rights of migrants should been defined. A comprehensive approach had to be implemented and a law had to be reinforced to the migrant status of people. The civil society, education centres, and the private centres should be mobilized to combat any discrimination against migrants. The Latin America countries had already held a series of conferences to design a common policy on migration. Migration policies and migration management could result in concrete application of the human rights of migrants.
Costa Rica had been hosting a number of migrants from different countries of the region. In 1999, a high level commission had been establish to identify policies, including legislative needs, with regard to migrants. A new alien and migrants act would be soon presented to the country's parliament. Costa Rica was determined to fight any form of illegality related to migrants. It would encourage the legal status of migrants and the enjoyment of their rights within a defined legal context.
ERDOGAN ISCAN (Turkey) said in a number of countries, migrants found discrimination in education, health care and employment, which led to a violation of their social and cultural rights. This also led to racism and xenophobia. There were four million Turkish citizens living in foreign countries, 3.1 million of those living within the EU countries. The Government encouraged them to integrate into their societies. That was why Turkey had participated in all international fora where migrants rights were being discussed. It was believed that policies of integration should be pursued. It was believed that migrants should be able to participate in the political process of the countries in which they lived. Turkey was fully supportive of the work of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
MARGUERITE CONTAT HICKEL, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said it was a grim reality that a substantial proportion of internal displacement today occurred in situations of armed conflict. Persons who left their homes in order to flee from the effects of hostilities or, even more worryingly, were forced to flee as they had been specifically targeted by the belligerent. Forced displacement had today become a method of warfare. In that context, ICRC would like to point out that first and foremost, and before being internally displaced persons, such persons, provided they were not taking part in hostilities, were civilians. And as civilians, they were entitled to the full protection of international humanitarian law, which was applicable in both international and domestic armed conflicts and was binding on both government forces and armed opposition groups.
Humanitarian law prohibited conducting hostilities in a manner that did not distinguish between combatants and civilians, as well as making civilians the target of attacks or forcing their displacement. Violations of those rules were war crimes; and if respected, humanitarian law was a powerful tool in the prevention of displacement.
ANN HEE KYET (Singapore) said the welfare of migrants was important to all States, including his country. Singapore supported the work of States and the United Nations to protect the civil and social rights of migrants, as well as the elimination of racial discrimination, xenophobia and religious intolerance targeted at migrants. All migrants should enjoy the basic human rights and freedoms and should be given protection by the law regardless of their national, racial or linguistic origins. However, a clear distinction should also be made between legal migrants and illegal migrants. An illegal migrant was necessarily subjected to limitation of certain rights as he had violated immigration laws. Nonetheless, all migrants, legal or illegal, should have the right to equality before the law and access to due legal processes. The sovereign rights of States to establish immigration controls had to be respected. At the same time, there was concern about the vulnerabilities of illegal migrants to various human rights violations. One key step to solving the problem of illegal migration was to stem human smuggling and human trafficking, particularly at the source. Legislation should be adopted to prevent trafficking in persons and to penalize the sale of travel and identity documents.
PATRICK TARA, of the International Labour Office (ILO) , observed that evidence was growing that the current dynamics of globalization and resulting changes in national and international economic and social conditions were contributing to increased human displacement and mobility. While firm data was till inadequate, ILO research had found that processes integral to globalization had intensified the disruptive effects of modernization and capitalist development. While different from one country to another, the general effect had been a crisis of economic security. At the same time, extensive hostility against, abuse of and violence towards migrants and other non-nationals had been much more visible worldwide in recent years. Lack of any systematic documentation over time made unclear what extent the apparent increase was in the level of abuse or whether it was partly a reflection of increased exposure and reporting.
The ILO was concerned that legal application of human rights norms to non-citizens was inadequate or seriously deficient in many countries, particularly as regards irregular migrants, those without authorization to enter or remain in the country.
LOTFI BOUCHAARA (Morocco) said that migratory patterns in the Mediterranean region were nothing new. What was of concern was the attitude of Western Governments to establish border controls. During the twentieth century, migratory flows in the Mediterranean depended upon political and economic conditions. An important Moroccan community had helped build up Europe and Europe's economy. Xenophobia had risen, and racism became a policy option for several governments. Morocco believed that the worsening of xenophobia was a flagrant contradiction to human rights. Migrants were easy targets, often scapegoats in countries when times became difficult. The European Parliament had become aware of the situation, and had tried to implement initiatives, but fruitlessly, apparently, because contradictory legislation was often passed in host countries. Even though the Secretary-General's report noted little progress, there should be optimism. The World Conference against Racism provided an opportunity to adopt principles and raise awareness. With globalization, migratory patterns would only increase. Cooperation among peoples was a realistic objective, and was important.
EAMONN MACAODHA (Ireland) said that depending on how one defined disability, there were up to 600 million persons with disabilities in the world today. Abuse of the human rights of persons with disabilities included violations of all of the traditional range of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. In practice, that could include issues as diverse as denial of liberty without due process, denial of voting rights, forced sterilization, denial of educational opportunity, employment discrimination and inaccessibility to public services. Vivid testimony of the reality of human rights violations in the area of mental health was heard at the World Health Organization event on that issue in Geneva earlier this month. Recent development in the area of bio-ethics and bio-medicine, especially as they related to the emerging so-called "right to be different", suggested that this area might also rapidly assume an importance on a par with the traditionally accepted right to equality.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said his country welcomed the fact that the Working Group on minorities would be considering the right of minorities to participate in the societies in which they were a part of. Switzerland supported the initiative of an NGO to launch a manual that would inform minorities of their rights and UN procedures. This would help them exercise their rights before legal bodies. The first workshop for this would take place later this month in Sri Lanka, with financial support from Switzerland. Worldwide, there were more than 25 million internally displaced persons. That was more than twice the number of refugees. That was why the situation of IDPs had become such an issue on the international stage. Various binding legal instruments permitted for their protection, as did various international human rights instruments. History, unfortunately, showed many examples that the problem was not the existence of international norms, but the failure to enforce existing laws. Many organizations were involved in protecting IDPs.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM (Sri Lanka) believed that the Working Group on Minorities provided ample opportunity for those concerned with minority rights to conduct a constructive dialogue with a view to arriving at possible solutions to complex issues relating to minorities. As a means of addressing minority rights and their outstanding aspirations, the Government of Sri Lanka had now proposed wide ranging constitutional reforms, which among other provisions, aimed at extensively devolving powers to the provinces. In addition, Sri Lanka believed that non-violent and consultative methods could, and should be employed to reach accommodation and arrangements on promotion of minority rights and aspirations in a society like Sri Lanka, where democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights prevailed. However, it was regrettable that in Sri Lank, an internationally recognized terrorist group continued to engage in violence and terrorism to obstruct and delay any promotion of minority rights through democratic means.
GEORG MAUTNER-MARKHOF (Austria) said recent human rights and humanitarian crises had once again demonstrated that the core of conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation held the key to the effective protection of minorities. Austria had devoted to this subject special attention for many years. It was deeply convinced that ethnic minorities were an important enrichment for cultures and societies. It valued diversity brought about by the existence of minorities and was aware of the continuous responsibility to strive for conditions which allowed the preservation of minorities’ own identity, language, traditions and culture. International arrangements, which aimed at effectively protecting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, were important human rights tools. In this context, mention should be made of the Council of Europe's two key instruments for the protection of national minorities, which had brought about a new era in human rights protection, namely the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, to which Austria was a party, and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It was currently in the process of ratifying the latter.
ISFANDIYAR VAHABZADA (Azerbaijan) emphasized that the causes and effects as well as the factor of responsibility could not be ignored while considering the problems of internal displacement. It was surprising that the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Displacement referred to the artificially inspired problems of population displacement in Armenia in connection with the conflict. No doubt that the aggressive policy of Armenia towards its neighbours was the major cause of the humanitarian disaster in Azerbaijan and instability in the south Caucasus. Azerbaijan believed that problems of internally displaced persons might be resolved only on the basis of their unconditional return to their places of origin. The implementation of the four resolutions of the Security Council in connection with the conflict was the necessary condition to achieve that gaol. At the same time, Azerbaijan firmly believed that the attempts not to take into consideration the causes of the population displacement would not assist the just settlement of the problem.
SYLVIE AREZES, of the International Organization for Migration, said many efforts had been made to ensure that migrants human rights were respected, including the framework for the World Conference against Racism, in the Special Rapporteurs reports, and during World Migrants Day. Questions linked to migration and migrants rights were difficult. They were no longer viewed as positive in the realm of development. Instead, they were scapegoats in some societies, and xenophobia was on the increase. There were growing patterns of illegal migration through trafficking. Fifty Chinese people had been found dead in a truck in the United Kingdom. IOM was attached to the principle that migration should be carried out in an orderly manner, with respect and dignity. IOM was increasingly acting as an intermediatory between States.
APOMENKA CEK (Croatia) hoped that the new Yugoslav legislation on minorities would remedy a decade long unsatisfactory legislative framework as well as injustice with regard to the members of the different national minorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Croatian minority in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of about 250,000 persons; and they were not recognized as a national minority in that country, thus being deprived of their right to belong to a national minority. They were exposed to forced assimilation. Croats in Yugoslavia had not only been deprived of minority specific rights but had also been exposed to a number of crimes, including physical injuries committed against members of the Croat community. About 50,000 Croats were forced to leave their homes and property. The largest part of those refugees came from the territory of Srijem and Kosovo.
JURAJ ZERVAN (Slovakia) said his country consistently paid the utmost attention to the situation of the Roma national minority since this question was one of the priorities of the Government in the field of the prevention of discrimination in all forms. The practical realization of the Government's basic document on the problems of the Roma minority had been overlooked by the Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Government for Roma issues. The particular significance of this document was based on the fact that every single task for the governmental institutions was fully covered by sufficient financial sources, and therefore, the strategy was realistic and would improve the existing condition of the Romas. Particularly, the question of education of Roma in their mother tongue and education of Roma in general was a priority. Obviously, it was a long-term and difficult task that required hard work by the Government and the Roma organizations. It also required a certain degree of international cooperation.
VASILLAQ COLLAKU (Albania) said that his people had always attached special attention to the maintenance of good relations and the spirit of increased cooperation between Albanians and the minorities living in their territory. With its friendly feelings towards the minorities and its choice to live peacefully together and share a common destiny, Albanian society had never been plagued by ethnic, racial or religious problems and conflicts. After many years of striving for democracy and a better tomorrow, the Albanian Government was realizing step-by-step the obligations provided by the Constitution. Albania's commitment to the protection and respect of the right of national minorities was also included in the Constitution. The measures adopted for the protection and respect of the human rights of national minorities were not only legislative but were also practical.
FRANCES-GALATIA WILLIAMS (Cyprus) said the issue of the violation of the human rights of the enclaved Greek-Cypriots and Maronites in the occupied area was well-established and documented in various reports of the UN and of the Council of Europe. The European Commission of Human Rights in a series of reports in 1999 had concluded unanimously that there had been a violation of the right of Greek-Cypriots living in northern Cyprus with respect to their private and family life and respect for their homes. The Commission noted that the general living conditions of Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus were imposed on them in pursuit of an acknowledged policy aiming at the separation of the ethnic groups in the island. There was also a steady decrease of their numbers as a result of specific measures which prevented the renewal of the population. The restrictions imposed on the Greek Cypriots had the effect of ensuring that inexorably with the passage of time, those communities would cease to exist in the northern part of the island.
PEKKA HUHTANIEMI (Finland) said that minorities were still more likely than other groups to be subjected to human rights violations. Minorities continued to be undeerrepresented in the political, economic and social life in many societies and children belonging to minorities were ore likely than others to find it hard to attend school. The principle of non-discrimination lay at the heart of human rights. Everyone should be treated equally. However, those in the worst position were often women and girls belonging to minorities. They often faced discrimination on multiple grounds. In that context, it was equally important that also the minorities themselves respected human rights. Traditional or cultural practices could not justify violations of rights of women and girls, nor could such practices be tolerated by others.
Finland continued to seek to reinforce the work of the working groups. With that in mind, Finland would present national examples of provincial autonomy on the Aland Islands and Sami cultural autonomy in their traditional areas in Lapland.
Rights of reply
A Representative of Turkey, exercising a right of reply, said the Cyprus question had began with an attack on Turkish Cypriots in 1963, and that was why the UN peace keeping force had been on the island ever since. On the question of the occupied part of Cyprus, Turkey did not invade or occupy it, but intervened. Turkey saved the lives of Turkish Cypriots, and as well, the lives of many Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots had become refugees in their own land, and in 1964, they were subjected to the embargo that persisted until this day. As for the so-called enclaved Greek-Cypriots, the term enclaved was first used by the Secretary-General to describe the areas where the Turkish-Cypriots were forced into.
A Representative of Cyprus, speaking in right of reply, said that the Tukish delegate's allegations had been refuted by the various documents of the United Nations. The problems of the Island were direct consequences of the Turkish invasion of 1974 and its occupation of part of the country.
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