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Statements Commission on Human Rights

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19 March 2002

19 March 2002




Mr. Chairman,

Allow me, at the outset, to congratulate you on your election to this high post and to wish you and other members of the Bureau every success in conducting the important tasks during the present Commission's session.

Slovenia fully aligns itself with the statement given by Spain on behalf of the European Union member and associated states. I shall therefore focus my statement primarily on some issues of particular interest to Slovenia.

Six months have passed since the vicious terrorist attacks of 11 September. These horrific events shocked and shattered us all. They also made us realise how interdependent issues affecting different parts of the globe are. Today’s world is a global one and we all bear responsibility for world issues: we therefore have to strive towards closer international co-operation as vital and necessary for our common good.

This basic understanding resonates in various important areas and I shall touch upon four major ones: the fight against terrorism; the universality of human rights; socio-economic inequality; and international justice.

There is no justification for terrorism. It directly negates human rights, the inviolability of human life and the human dignity of the victims and of mankind. Slovenia, a member of the anti-terrorist coalition, supports the need to fight terrorism with all available means. The perpetrators of those dreadful attacks must be brought to justice. It is important however to re-emphasise that the fight against terrorism should not be conducted at the expense of existing human rights and fundamental freedoms. Existing standards represent norms, values and achievements developed over the last 50 years in particular and represent the finest reflection of the growth of our shared civilisation. The erosion of these standards would paradoxically make the terrorists triumph by succeeding to encroach upon the liberties and tolerance of our societies. On the contrary: we should retain our open, tolerant and democratic societies. In doing so, special emphasis should be placed on respecting the standards of the fight against discrimination, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the final documents of the World Conference against Racism held in Durban last year.

In fighting terrorism we should also address its deeper roots, such as socio-economic deprivation, and the marginalisation of large parts of the world’s population into poverty, illiteracy and diseases. Continuation of their plight shall only strengthen their sense of isolation, resentment and the absence of clear prospects of a decent future. Let me reiterate that we can only win lasting and prosperous peace by caring for all victims of terrorism – for those directly targeted as well as for the innocent ordinary people caught in the crossfire.

Indeed - the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms, whether civil and political or social, economic and cultural rights, is at the core of their strength and applicability for every individual and every member of the international community. Human rights standards transcend national borders. Gross and massive abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law are increasingly becoming a matter of concern to the international community as a whole. Positive developments in international criminal justice are a very important reflection of this trend. While a number of human rights and humanitarian law crimes still remain unaccounted for – such as, for example, in Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge times and in East Timor in 1999, it is gratifying to see criminal justice taking hold of the perpetrators of the worst crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. Let me reiterate that full co-operation with ICTY is an international obligation as well as it is needed for confronting the past in order to move on and reconcile truly.

The present time reinforces the need for an independent International Criminal Justice Court as a global independent and effective judicial mechanism to ensure individual criminal responsibility for perpetrators of the worst crimes of concern to international community. Slovenia, being a firm supporter throughout the process of establishment, ratified the Rome Statute at the end of 2001. We are looking forward to the entry into force of the Rome Statute later this year and the subsequent establishment of the Court.

Mr. Chairman,

The situation in the Middle East is a cause of serious concern to all of us. We hope the present vicious cycle of violence be stopped and the political process be brought back on track, taking into account the well-meaning and useful initiatives introduced recently. In particular, we welcome the recent Security Council resolution 1397 (2002) and “a vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, lived side by side within secure and recognised borders”. As pointed out by many NGOs it is also imperative for any future peace prospects that both sides conform to basic human rights standards and humanitarian law norms.

The stability and prosperity of South-Eastern Europe is in our particular interest. In this sense I would like to welcome the signing of an agreement on redefining relations between Serbia and Montenegro, reached under mediation by the European Union and Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The agreement reached by both republics is an important contribution to the preservation of peace and stability in the region, which guarantees, at the same time, economic development and prosperity.

Slovenia has been continuously intensifying its contribution towards stabilisation efforts in SEE. I would like to present to you one particular project which is based on the belief that the social reconciliation of the region depends crucially on the psychosocial profile of the younger generations. In partnership with the NGO Slovene Philanthropy and the City of Ljubljana, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry established the “Together Regional Center for Phsyco-social Wellbeing of Children”, affected by armed conflicts in South-Eastern Europe. We thank those who have already indicated their willingness to pledge donations for the Centre and at the same time invite all other interested states, organisations and NGOs, to cooperate in this project. This project will be presented in more detail later on during the Commission’s session under the agenda item Rights of the Child.

Another project of Slovenia that I wish briefly to point out to you is the work of the International Trust - Fund for De-mining and Mine Victims Assistance. It assists de-mining efforts in states affected by armed conflicts in the Balkans. Its work helps to create conditions for the return of refugees by clearing mine polluted areas.

Mr. Chairman,

Slovenia advocates the promotion of and respect for human rights, and supports the activities of the Commission on Human Rights in the work of its mechanisms and in the standard-setting. We hope that work on the new optional protocol to establish an international mechanism in prevention of torture will be concluded in the near future. We also support the elaboration on an international document on involuntary disappearances. As part of its preparations for the Durban Conference, Slovenia submitted a declaration under Article 14 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, according to which individuals may file direct complaints with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Ms Ouhachi-Vesely, Special Rapporteur for dangerous and toxic wastes and human rights, and Mr Lindqvist, Special Rapporteur on disabilities, are to pay visits to Slovenia in 2002.

Having said this, Mr. Chairman, and in avoiding the danger of complacency, we need to be aware that – as to a varying degree in any country, there is a gap between the normative and the practical implementation of human rights also in Slovenia. I especially wish to highlight the useful role of non-governmental organisations, acting either nationally or internationally, in reminding us, governments, about deficiencies in the area of human rights protection. It is now a well-established practice of the Slovenian Foreign Ministry to meet Slovenian NGO representatives prior to the UN Commission on Human Rights session each year. Also this year we have listened to NGOs active in the area of human rights and they have reminded us of areas that are in need of better implementation of standards. In particular, they have pointed out the need to strive towards ensuring truly equal opportunities for women. Women are still under-represented in political decision-making and, on average, women’s earnings are estimated to be lower than those of men. Violence against women is a disturbing phenomenon. Another area NGOs point out to us is the rise in homophobia – instances of persons of same sex orientation being discriminated against in different walks of life, for example at work, are being reported. In addition, this year we have given a special opportunity to organisations representing the disabled persons to hear their specific concerns.

These are valuable reminders on some areas where continued effort is needed to close the gap between the norms and practice. Such dialogue is invaluable in our common endeavour to strive towards society where every citizen is truly entitled to and granted equal rights protection; society that thrives on and encourages plurality as the driving force of positive change.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I wish to reiterate the Slovenia’s commitment to strive towards full human rights promotion and protection at the international as well as national level, and to wish this year’s session of the Commission every success.

Thank you.