Press Releases

     

    GA/SHC/3766
    17 November 2003

    SPEAKERS IN THIRD COMMITTEE DEBATE STRESS NEED TO
    INTEGRATE RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS INTO
    COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGIES

    Importance of Development in Relation to Human Rights also Stressed

    NEW YORK, 14 November (UN Headquarters) -- Respect for human rights must be integrated in counter-terrorism strategies, representatives today told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it continued its consideration of alternative approaches to the promotion of human rights and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Representatives highlighted the need to strike a balance between the legitimate security concerns of States and the protection of human rights in accordance with international laws, as they voiced their concerns that human rights were being compromised in the fight against terrorism.

    Respect for the rule of law and respect for all human rights -- civil and political, economic, social and cultural -- were necessary elements in the fight against terrorism on national and international levels, said the representative of Switzerland.  In this context, it could be useful to promote cooperation between the Commission on Human Rights and the Security Council and for the General Assembly to encourage the Commission to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the respect for human rights within anti-terrorism measures.

    Terrorism was itself a violation of human rights, said the representative of the Russian Federation, stressing the need to condemn and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Given the global nature of terrorism, he added, it must be tackled by the entire international community through a uniform approach.

    The tragic attacks of September 2001 and subsequent events represented major reversals in the promotion and protection of human rights, said the representative of Pakistan. Terrorism violated human rights, and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations must be condemned, pre-empted and fought.  However, he stressed, respect for human rights must remain an essential part of any counter-terrorism strategy.

    The representative of Sudan said his delegation was particularly concerned about the profound impact of the September 11 events on human rights related to religious freedoms.  Actions taken by some States to combat terrorism had threatened the civil liberties of individuals because of their religious beliefs.

    The impact on the rights of migrants to asylum was also of concern.  His delegation called for continued dialogue and negotiations based on human rights considerations to reverse that trend.

    The representative of Qatar, condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, highlighted the need to distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate struggle for self-determination.  Violating human rights when fighting terrorism was tantamount to helping terrorists win a battle they could not win on their own.

    Speakers also stressed the intrinsic link between development and the enjoyment of human rights.  Dignity and human well-being could not be protected in the face of grinding poverty, said the representative of India.  He said his Government had consistently argued that national capacity building should be at the centre of the international community’s efforts to promote human rights.

    Fighting poverty was also about promoting human rights, said the representative of Norway.  There was no dichotomy between development and human rights.  An individual’s quality of life depended on both political liberty and economic opportunity.  Time and time again it had been seen that oppressive regimes did not foster sustainable development.

    The representative of the Republic of Korea said she was encouraged by the growing interaction between human rights and development activities in the United Nations system.  The interdependence of human rights, democracy and development was a lesson her country had learned through its own experience in socio-economic growth and democratization.  Development devoid of advances for human rights and democracy could not be sustained. 

    Also addressing the Committee today were the representatives of Algeria, China, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Mali, Tunisia, Israel, Cuba, Jamaica, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, Mongolia and Eritrea.

    The Observers of Palestine and the Holy See also spoke, as did the representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Organization for Migration.

    The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of his right of reply.

    The Committee will reconvene Monday, 17 November at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches to the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural) will continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights, and human rights situations.

    Before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/58/255), which states that the international community has focused increasing attention on the protection of minority rights. Problems faced by minorities, including the non-recognition of identities, social and economic inequality and exclusion from decision-making processes, are recognized as root causes of minority-related problems or conflicts. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Minorities have been pursuing regional approaches on minority issues, strengthening international cooperation for the better protection of minority rights and enhancing international, regional and national systems of minority protection so as to reduce tensions and prevent conflict.  The focus identified as central for that purpose, is the effective participation of minorities in public life and in social and economic development.  The Office of the High Commissioner plans to continue building the capacity of civil society to work on minority issues at the national, subregional and regional levels, and to use the United Nations Guide for Minorities, as a basic training tool.

    A report of the Secretary-General on the right to development (document A/58/276), responding to a General Assembly resolution 57/223 with the same name, which requested the Secretary-General to bring the resolution to the attention of Member States, United Nations and other international organs and bodies and non-governmental organizations. The report contains the replies received from Germany, Japan, Cuba, Guatemala, and Syria, as well as replies received from specialized agencies, United Nations departments, programmes and funds, and other international organizations. An addendum to the report (document A/58/276/Add.1) contains the replies received from Azerbaijan and Venezuela.

    A report of the Secretary-General on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (A/59/279) responds to a General Assembly request to continue to collect the views of Member States and information on the implications and negative effects of unilateral coercive measures on their populations, and to submit an analytical report on the topic.  The Secretary-General sent a note verbale to all permanent missions on 25 June 2003, however, to date no replies have been received.

    A report of the Secretary-General on protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, (A/58/266), contains an overview of comments received from governments and international and non-governmental organizations, in response to a letter of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights seeking views and information on the protection of human rights, while countering terrorism.  It also provides a review of rights that have come under significant pressure worldwide as a result of counter-terrorism measures, including the rights to life and to freedom from torture, due process rights and the right to seek asylum.

    The report concludes that while there is no doubt as to the legitimacy and urgency of the need for States to take resolute action against terrorism, human rights have come under significant pressures as a result of counter-terrorism measures.  Respect for human rights should be seen as an essential part of an effective counter-terrorism strategy, not an impediment to it.  States must consider availing themselves of the technical assistance available to help them in fully integrating human rights protections into measures taken against terrorism.  Both the Office of the High Commissioner and regional organizations have notified the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council of their willingness to provide this kind of assistance.

    The Committee also has before it a report of the Secretary-General on human rights and mass exoduses, (document A/58/186), which acknowledges the links between human rights and mass exoduses related to situations of displacement, facilitation of return and prevention.  The report reviews the efforts of the various United Nations mechanisms and institutions, on behalf of persons affected by mass exoduses.  It surveys the work of such humanitarian development organizations as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund, among others.

    The specific case of internally displaced persons is also addressed, particularly regarding the work of the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons and the newly established internally displaced persons unit in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The report concludes that the second reform programme of the Secretary-General emphasizes human rights and, in particular, the need to build strong national mechanisms, capacities and institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.  The challenge for the United Nations today is to implement, effectively and efficiently, action plans that will assist States in making those proposals a reality.

    A report of the Secretary-General on the progress of efforts to ensure the full recognition and enjoyment of the human rights of persons with disabilities (document A/58/181) focuses on the issue of procedural safeguards for persons with mental disabilities.  It analyses briefly the key international human rights instruments relating to persons with mental disabilities, with a view to identifying the main substantive standards and procedural guarantees applicable regarding persons with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities.  In particular, the report considers such issues as legal capacity, involuntary institutionalization and involuntary or forced treatment, and reviews the way in which these international standards are transposed into domestic legislation.

    An addendum to the report (document A/58/181/Add.1) contains responses by Chile, El Salvador and India to a questionnaire by the Secretary-General on the human rights of persons with disabilities.

    The Committee also has before it a report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/58/185).  The report states that the Secretary-General has invited Member States to present practical proposals and ideas that would contribute to the strengthening of relevant United Nations action, and it contains the reply of Libya on the matter.  Two addendums to the report, containing the replies of the Governments of the Russian Federation and Cuba (documents A/58/185/Adds.1 and 2).

    A report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/58/212) describes the work of the United Nations over the previous biennium in providing electoral assistance.  It presents an analytical framework that describes the role that elections play in furthering a number of goals of the Organization, including conflict prevention, peace-building and development.  Stressing the role of the focal point for electoral assistance activities, it describes how the various parts of the United Nations system work in close coordination to provide electoral assistance that is effective, prompt and consistent with the body of experience that has been built up over the previous decade.

    The report also describes how electoral assistance is increasingly incorporated into major United Nations peacekeeping and peace-building missions, and notes the value of including electoral experts at political negotiations aimed at ending or preventing conflicts.  Finally, the report signals that the United Nations electoral assistance mechanisms will need to be enhanced if they are to continue to provide effective and quality support in the face of steadily increasing demands for such support.

    Also, there is a report of the Secretary-General on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/58/257).  The report follows a request to the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States and relevant United Nations agencies on globalization and its impact on human rights and to submit a substantive report on this subject to the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session.  It contains the response of the Government of Lebanon on the issue.

    The Committee will review a report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights education and public information activities undertaken by various actors between December 2002 and July 2003 (document A/58/318).  The report highlights advancements in the strengthening of national, regional and international programmes for human rights education.  Included, is a summary of activities undertaken by governments, United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations in the field of human rights education.

    The report calls on regional and international organizations and institutions to continue supporting national initiatives by facilitating the sharing of information by creating networks, training trainers and related activities.  It urges governments to fulfil commitments made at the international level to develop national strategies for human rights education that are comprehensive and participatory.

    There is also a note by the Secretary-General on the human rights situation of the Lebanese detainees in Israel, (A/58/218), which states that no reply has been received from Israel to the Secretary-General concerning the Economic and Social Council’s endorsement of a decision of the Commission on Human Rights on this issue.

    A report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Sierra Leone (document A/58/379), which contains information on events through the beginning of August 2003.  It says the human rights situation in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the last report of the High Commissioner submitted to the General Assembly in February 2003.

    The report notes that Government authority has been re-established nationwide; the judicial system and courts are being restored; and magistrate courts and police formations have almost reached the pre-war levels of deployment.  All of those developments have contributed to a climate of increased respect for human rights.  However, structural deficiencies linked to the recent history of abuses and violations have obstructed the emergence of a society based on the rule of law.  This is most evident in the judicial system and must be urgently addressed.

    Current human rights challenges in Sierra Leone include addressing impunity relating to past abuses and preventing ongoing violations, while building local capacities to protect and promote human rights, especially of vulnerable groups, such as children, refugees, women and migrants.

    Progress in the overall peace process has led to arrangements for the gradual withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), currently scheduled for December 2004.  Discussions are currently ongoing on the nature of the post-UNAMSIL residual United Nations presence in Sierra Leone.  The report stresses the importance of retaining a core human rights component capable of monitoring the human rights situation, providing technical cooperation and assisting the building of national capacity in the area of human rights.

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