Press Releases

     

    GA/SHC/3752*
    28 October 2003

    BROADER LEGAL DEFINITION OF ‘MERCENARY’ NEEDED, SAYS
    SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR, AS THIRD COMMITTEE CONTINUES
    DISCUSSION OF SELF-DETERMINATION, RACISM

    Delegates Stress Importance of Education,

    Tolerance, Dialogue in Countering Racism, Discrimination

    NEW YORK, 27 October (UN Headquarters) -- In order to effectively combat the use of mercenaries in armed conflict, illicit trafficking and other crimes, the legal definition of mercenary must be modified to include States complicit in mercenary activities, and to include mercenary involvement in a wide range of criminal activities, the Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries, Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, today told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it continued its consideration of the right of peoples to self-determination and the elimination of racism and racial discrimination. 

    The use of mercenaries as criminal agents affected not only the rights of people to self-determination, but was a means to violate fundamental human rights, he continued.  Because of the lack of laws to combat mercenary activities, mercenaries were often not prosecuted, and many people were denounced as mercenaries participating in armed conflicts, particularly in Africa, who continued to operate with impunity.

    What was needed, he stressed, was a broader legal definition of mercenarism to combat mercenary involvement in both international and domestic armed conflicts, and to expand the definition to include mercenary participation in illicit activities such as trafficking in persons, arms and drugs, actions to destabilize legitimate governments, and actions to forcibly control valuable natural resources.  He noted that his report on mercenaries currently before the Committee contained proposed amendments of articles 1, 2 and 3 of the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, to address the critical need to redefine mercenaries and mercenary acts.

    In the subsequent general discussion, delegates highlighted their concerns related to the right of peoples to self-determination, the persistence of racism and racial discrimination, the emergence of new manifestations of racism and racial discrimination in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the dissemination of racist hate propaganda through the Internet.

    Several delegations, including Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan, voiced concerns about the situation of the Palestinian occupied territories and their support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. 

    The international community must continue to address discrimination based on religion or belief, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, said the representative of Norway, stressing that racism could only be countered through increased knowledge, tolerance and intercultural dialogue.  He said the international community must also strengthen cooperation to combat the dissemination of racist propaganda through the Internet.

     

    The representative of Japan said stressed the importance of education in preventing racism, since racists were not born but created from ignorance and prejudice.  Youth exchanges were particularly useful in nurturing mutual understanding among different races and ethnic groups, as the youth of today was the driving force in building the society of tomorrow.

    The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the issue of racism and racial discrimination evoked a deep resonance among the people of CARICOM member States.  Having survived centuries of slavery and colonialism, the people of the Caribbean were acutely aware of the ills associated with racism and racial discrimination and their lingering adverse effects on the development process.  He said present inequitable social and economic conditions had been caused in large part by slavery and indentureship, and CARICOM endorsed all initiatives to address these persistent inequities.

    Also speaking today were representatives of Algeria, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, and San Marino.  The representatives of Morocco and Algeria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    Representatives of the International Labour Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.

    The Committee will reconvene tomorrow, at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of racism and racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) will continue its consideration of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, the implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination. 

    For further background information please see press release GA/SHC/3751 of 24 October. 

     

     

    Statement by Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries

    ENRIQUE BERNALES BALLESTEROS, Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries, said the use of mercenaries as criminal agents affected not only the rights of people to self-determination, but was a means to violate fundamental human rights.  Noting the use of mercenaries in past armed conflicts in Africa and Latin America, he said the presence of mercenaries was still being felt in most of the countries currently affected by armed confrontations.  In these new conflicts, the presence of young Africans with minimum pay becoming involved as mercenaries was of concern.  Also deserving of special attention were mercenary activities in countries in Latin America, including Cuba, Colombia, Peru, Panama and El Salvador.

    Because of the lack of laws to combat mercenary activities, mercenaries were often not prosecuted, he said, there were many people denounced as mercenaries participating in armed conflicts, particularly in Africa, but they had neither been judged nor punished.  The lack of a good definition for mercenary acts prevented rapid action in prosecuting mercenaries who were committing crimes.

    Mercenary activities had to be considered as autonomous crimes that should be internationally regulated because they violated human rights, he continued.  Those who planned or allowed for activities of mercenaries should also be held accountable for those activities.  In cases where States planned or allowed for such activities, the State too must be punished.

    He said the presence of mercenaries in illicit trafficking activities and in other acts of organized crimes was criminal.  The legal definition of mercenaries had to be sufficiently broad to take into account the different criminal methods that were part of mercenary activities.  There was a need to improve the international convention against mercenary activities and to redefine the status of mercenaries in a legal framework.  Such a definition had to be all encompassing and had to consider mercenaries in both international and domestic armed conflicts.  It should address mercenary acts of individual agents as well as the States involved in the planning of mercenary acts.  His report contained proposed amendments of articles 1, 2 and 3 of the current convention to address the critical need to redefine mercenaries and mercenary acts.

     

    Interactive Dialogue

    In a subsequent question-and-answer session, the representative of Cuba said it was important to recognize the legal definition of mercenaries as proposed by the Special Rapporteur.  Concerning the many aspects of the criminal acts of mercenaries, he asked about the link between mercenary acts and other criminal acts, saying that those acts were connected.  Finally, he stressed that nationals could also be involved in mercenary and terrorist activities.

    Mr. Ballesteros responded that when his mandate had been created in 1987, he had mostly focused on the difficult situation in Africa.  As his mandate continued, he had begun to receive complaints from many Central American States relating to mercenary acts unrelated to self-determination, but that aimed to achieve special interests.  It would be a serious error to only view mercenary activities in the light of self-determination, he said.  As nationals, too, could be involved in mercenary activities, he suggested an amendment to article 1 of the convention, which would remove the question of nationality.

          

    * *** *

    ____________________________________________________________

    *     Pages 2-9 of this release should have been the 25th Meeting (AM) only.