Press Releases

    HR/CN/1014
    2 April 2003

    Commission on Human Rights Continues Debate on Question of Violations Anywhere in World

    Special Rapporteurs on Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq, Personal Representative on Cuba, and Justice Minister of Congo Speak

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 1 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights heard this morning from the Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of Congo and from Special Rapporteurs assigned to investigate the human rights situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq, and from a Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights appointed to look into matters in Cuba. General debate also was heard as the Commission continued consideration of its agenda item on the "Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world".

    Jean-Martin Mbemba, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of Congo, said that 55 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and 10 years after the World Conference on Human Rights, the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms remained an empty concept for a large portion of mankind. There had been a multiplication of flashpoints in the world, particularly because of arms proliferation, international terrorism, civil wars, interference of all sorts, transnational crime, racism, extreme poverty, the scourge of illiteracy, infectious diseases, and the terrible HIV/AIDS epidemic, Mr. Mbemba said.

    Iulia Antoanella Motoc, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said that despite positive developments, the situation in the DRC remained very grave, and she called on the Government to observe a moratorium on capital punishment, to adopt a Congolese Charter for human rights, and to continue to implement measures to demobilize children, prevent the looting of natural resources, and protect human rights defenders.

    A Representative of the DRC said in response that it was impossible to speak of a peace process in the country without raising the question of the withdrawal from the country's territory of aggressor armies from Rwanda and Uganda and without a process of demobilization, disarmament, repatriation and integration.

    Andreas Mavrommatis, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, stressed that parties to the war now under way in Iraq must scrupulously observe international humanitarian law and shield the civilian population from the consequences of the war. One might think that it was not appropriate, when people including civilians were being killed, to speak about future action in the field of human rights in Iraq, the Special Rapporteur said -- nevertheless, he felt there was an imperative necessity for continued action to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.

    A Representative of Iraq said the Special Rapporteur was very selective and had based his analysis on pre-conceived ideas. The economic embargo imposed 12 years ago was the main source of Iraq's difficulties, the Representative said, and the Special Rapporteur should immediately visit the country to investigate the human rights violations committed against Iraq by the United States-led aggression.

    Christine Chanet, Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Cuba, said among other things that Cuba had rejected the Commission's resolution on Cuba, claiming that it was unjust, selective and discriminatory, but had expressed its willingness to continue to cooperate with the High Commissioner and through Commission mechanisms. She said that since her appointment had only occurred two months ago, she had not had time to prepare a report.

    Contributing to the general debate this morning under the Commission's agenda item 9 were representatives of Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), South Africa (on behalf of the African Group), the Republic of Korea, Argentina, Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Pakistan, Syria and Canada.

    Cuba, Israel, Armenia, Iraq, Pakistan, India and Palestine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    The Commission will reconvene at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of agenda item 9.

    Address from the Podium

    JEAN MARTIN MBEMBA, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of Congo, said 55years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 10 years after the World Conference on Human Rights, the true exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms remained an empty concept for a large portion of mankind. There had been a multiplication of flashpoints in the world, particularly because of arms proliferation, international terrorism, civil wars, interference of all sorts, transnational crime, racism, extreme poverty, the scourge of illiteracy, infectious diseases, and the terrible HIV/AIDS epidemic. All these challenges had made a mockery of any call for respect for human rights at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    Mr. Mbemba said the Republic of Congo hoped for a swift solution to the war in Iraq on the basis of respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties. The situation in the Middle East continued to be worrisome and the Commission was bound to consider it seriously in order to put an end to the upsurge in violence and to enable the Palestinian people finally to exercise their right to self-determination. Racism continued to cause great suffering. This was why the Commission must accord particular importance to the follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism.

    The eradication of poverty would only be possible through the realization of the right to development, Mr. Nbemba said. There could be no sustainable development if man did not enjoy good physical and mental health. For this reason, the right to health must be given high priority on the Commission's agenda. How could sustainable development be achieved in Africa when more than 1 million people died of malaria every year? How could the implementation of the right to development be envisaged on this continent when more than 20 million people infected with the HIV/AIDS virus were simply waiting for death?

    Presentation and Response to Report on Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo

    IULIA ANTOANELLA MOTOC, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said inter-Congolese peace negotiations had been concretized in Pretoria on 17 December 2002 with the signature of a general agreement. The agreement between the Government and the rebel factions provided for the end of the war, and for national reconciliation and reconstruction, among other things. The agreement also envisaged the setting up of a democratic and constitutional regime. Respect for all human rights was fundamental during the transition period. However, the situation of human rights defenders remained fragile. In the territories controlled by the Government, human rights defenders who condemned violations by the Court of Military Order were the targets of violations themselves. For that reason, some individuals had to live clandestinely or leave the country. In the eastern part of the country, the activities of human rights defenders were considered political activities and were repressed as such.

    Ms. Motoc said that despite positive developments, the human rights situation in the Congo remained very grave. Massive violations of humanitarian law had been condemned in the past by the former Special Rapporteur. By its resolution 1468 of 20 March, the Security Council had vividly expressed concern about the situation in Ituri. In the same text, the Council had expressed concern about the tension between Uganda and Rwanda and their allies in the Congolese territories, and had requested the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from the Congo.

    Ms. Motoc said parties to the conflict should contribute to the operation of the Commission of Pacification in Ituri and abstain from appointing individuals who had committed grave human rights violations. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo should observe a moratorium on capital punishment handed down by the Court of Military Order; adopt a Congolese Charter for human rights, which would prohibit the death penalty; and continue to implement measures to demobilize children, prevent the looting of natural resources, and protect and encourage human rights defenders.

    ANTOINE MINDUA KESIA-MBE (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said he welcomed the fact that the Special Rapporteur had confirmed the atrocities perpetrated in Kinsangani in May 2002. No human rights activist was imprisoned in Government-controlled areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Approximately 212 political parties and 15 political groupings were recognized by law and operated freely in the country. The Government was of the view that the failure of foreign troops to withdraw was the true cause of the upsurge in armed conflicts and this undermined the peace process in the DRC. Indeed, it was impossible to speak of a peace process in the country without raising the question of the withdrawal of the aggressor armies of Rwanda and Uganda and the process of demobilization, disarmament, repatriation and integration.

    The demilitarization of Kinsangani, demanded by the Security Council, still had not been carried out. The Government was sparing no effort to combat impunity and had ratified the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The true cause of the war waged by Rwanda and Uganda was the pillage of the resources of the DRC. The Government condemned cases of rape in the east of the country. These crimes were confirmed by the Special Rapporteur, who pointed out that the raped women continued to hide for fear of reprisals by the rebel movements. Contrary to resolution 1468 of the Security Council, the Special Rapporteur had failed to stress the need for a withdrawal of the armed troops of Rwanda and Uganda.

    Interactive Dialogue on Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo

    In a question-and-answer session, a Representative of Rwanda reaffirmed the support of Rwanda for completion of the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

    A Representative of Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked how the integration of human rights into the peace process could be achieved.

    The Special Rapporteur was also asked how the international community could assist in strengthening the judiciary and human rights institutions in the DRC. She was asked to elaborate on her proposal to establish an international criminal tribunal and its timeframe.

    A Representative of the United States stressed the need to end impunity and to strengthen the judicial system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The Special Rapporteur was asked to elaborate on the role of MONUC (United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

    Illegal exploitation of natural resources prevented any flow of funds or benefits to local communities, said a Representative of Canada. The Special Rapporteur was encouraged to focus attention on this issue in her future work.

    Ms. Motoc responded that it was true that due to security issues she had not been able to cover the entire country. However, United Nations investigations had been and were taking place on human rights violations. It was also true that human rights defenders had been released. However, they still had to live in clandestine locations.

    She elaborated on the reconciliation process and the need for a judicial mechanism to be set up to deal with human rights issues, including incidents of summary execution and enforced disappearance. She stressed the importance of MONUC, particularly in terms of coordination, but said MONUC lacked the necessary financial means to be truly effective in this capacity. Concerning the judiciary and whether it reflected human rights law, she said the role of the judiciary was very important, and the international community must continue to assist the Government in strengthening a judiciary that gave priority to human rights.

    Presentation and Response to Report on Situation in Iraq

    ANDREAS MAVROMMATIS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, said that war with all its horrors had begun in Iraq. He reiterated the Secretary-General's position that parties must scrupulously observe international humanitarian law and must shield the civilian population from the consequences of war. The unfolding events in Iraq had regrettably forced him to postpone his second substantive visit to Iraq and had made his approach to the contents of his introductory remarks to the Commission an agonizing exercise. He had been present during the debate on whether to hold a special sitting on the situation in Iraq. Being present had given him the opportunity to have a number of useful contacts and that, as well as the debate proceeding the vote on the special sitting, helped him draw a number of conclusions in connection with his mandate.

    Cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Iraq and delegates from Baghdad had continued and a useful meeting had been held with them on the 27 March 2003. During the meeting, the Iraqi delegation referred to the latest notes verbales concerning compliance with past recommendations by the Special Rapporteur. During the same meeting, the Permanent Representative of Iraq had commented extensively on the addendum to the report, and in particular on its conclusions.

    The aforesaid addendum to his report, which had been drafted before hostilities became inevitable in Iraq, had marked the completion of three years' work that had led to evaluations and proposed future action.

    He was convinced that in the future the task of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iraq would acquire, in the present circumstances, a new dimension and increased importance, Mr. Mavrommatis said. It went without saying that, as in the past, the final formulation of recommendations presupposed full cooperation with Iraq, whose responsibility would be to implement any recommendations made. One might think that it was not appropriate, when people including civilians were being killed, to speak about future action in the field of human rights in Iraq. It was his view that he would have failed in his duty as Special Rapporteur if he had not referred in an optimistic manner to the imperative necessity for continued action to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in Iraq. This presupposed in addition an adequate United Nations human rights presence in Iraq which, in cooperation with the authorities, could assist in the gradual attainment of full compliance with international human rights norms.

    It also was necessary to continue dealing with information regarding serious allegations of violations of human rights, including assisting the process of tracing and accounting for Kuwaiti prisoners of war and missing persons, and other missing persons including Iraqis, some of whom were expelled more than two decades ago. He reiterated his determination to deal with the question of human rights in Iraq in full cooperation with the authorities, without prejudging any issue, and with the main intention being to ensure the enjoyment of human rights by all the Iraqi people without fear, favour or discrimination.

    DHARI KHALIL MAHMOOD (Iraq) said the Special Rapporteur should have highlighted the cooperation he had received from the Government and the progress made in the human rights situation instead of dwelling on information supplied to him by sources hostile to Iraq. During his mission to Iraq, the Rapporteur had visited the places he wanted to visit, including prisons. He also had met with high-level Government officials who responded to his questions. The Rapporteur had not mentioned the progress made in the implementation of a series of legislation. In light of the US-British aggression, the Special Rapporteur should have highlighted the situation to make his report more credible. The Special Rapporteur should immediately visit Iraq in order to establish facts in connection with the aggression directed against Iraq.

    The Rapporteur had given credence to the false accusations and information supplied to him by hostile sources residing abroad. He was very selective and based his analysis on pre-conceived ideas. The economic embargo imposed 12 years ago was the main source of the difficulties that Iraq had been subjected to. The Rapporteur had not highlighted the grave consequences of the economic embargo which had resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqi children. Following the recent aggression against Iraq, many protests had been organized by a number of intellectuals and peace-loving individuals all over the world. It was regrettable that the Commission on Human Rights refused to hold a special sitting on the situation in Iraq. The Special Rapporteur should immediately visit the country to investigate the human rights violations committed by the twenty-first century invaders and to witness the United States-led aggression.

    Interactive Dialogue on Situation in Iraq

    A Representative of the Syria said the report of the Special Rapporteur was mediocre, disappointing and lacking in information. It was neither objective nor exhaustive. Why was the Special Rapporteur so slow to carry out his second visit to Iraq? Also, the Special Rapporteur had confined himself to receiving testimony only from Iraqi nationals living abroad. The Special Rapporteur was asked whether he did not believe that this undermined the quality of his report.

    A Representative of Cuba asked the Special Rapporteur his opinion of the violations of human rights in Iraq as a result of the aggression committed against it. Did the Special Rapporteur not believe that it would be appropriate to revise his mandate in order for it to include examination of the massacres and indiscriminate bombings carried out against Iraq? The representative also asked the Special Rapporteur whether he planned to visit Iraq to examine reports by the mass media of human rights violations.

    A Representative of Canada said that he thought that under the circumstances the report of the Special Rapporteur was good and asked the Special Rapporteur what role he envisaged for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights mechanisms in post-conflict Iraq.

    The Special Rapporteur said the delay in his second visit to Iraq was due to the fact that the visit was supposed to be long and required planning and security clearances for him and the United Nations personnel who accompanied him.

    The Special Rapporteur indicated that he would carry out another visit as soon as circumstances allowed it. The Special Rapporteur said replies from Iraqi authorities to allegations of human rights violations were incomplete and slow to come. Only recently had cooperation by the authorities increased. There had been some positive developments, such as the release of prisoners and the suspension of some death sentences and executions of women prostitutes. Efforts should now focus on ensuring that independent institutions were put in place to implement the provisions of international instruments to which Iraq was a party. The Special Rapporteur said it was not true that he had spoken only to witnesses living abroad. He had interviewed scores of witnesses in Iraq. As for his mandate, it concerned human rights violations by the Government of Iraq. This said, the Special Rapporteur did not believe that human rights existed in a vacuum and he did examine questions such as infant mortality. Nevertheless, it was up to the Commission to decide whether to change his mandate.

    Statement of Personal Representative on Situation in Cuba

    CHRISTINE CHANET, Personal Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Cuba, said she had been appointed on 27 January 2003, and on 7 February had addressed a letter to the Cuban Ambassador to the UN Office at Geneva requesting a constructive dialogue between the Cuban authorities and the High Commissioner. On 11 February 2003, the Representative of Cuba had addressed a document to the High Commissioner concerning the views of the Cuban Government and had requested that the document be circulated as an official text of the Commission.

    Ms. Chanet said that in the document submitted, Cuba rejected the Commission's resolution on Cuba, saying it was unjust, selective and discriminatory, but that the Government had expressed its willingness to continue to supply information to the High Commissioner and through Commission mechanisms. The Government of Cuba had also said that it would study the possibility of taking measures to ratify the international instruments to which it was not yet a party. Ms. Chanet also said she had received communications from several non-governmental organizations concerning recent detentions that had occurred in Cuba.

    Ms. Chanet said it was too early to present an evaluation of the whole human rights situation in Cuba, or to comment on the progress achieved in the area of civil and political rights during the period envisaged by the resolution.

    A period of two months was insufficient to submit a report on the situation in Cuba.

    Interactive Dialogue on Situation in Cuba

    In a question-and-answer session, the representative of the United States asked about the Government of Cuba forbidding the entry of the Personal Representative into the country. How could she fulfil the mandate of the Commission when she could not even enter the country? Secondly, a few days ago, seventy dissidents had been jailed in Cuba for attempting to speak their mind. The Personal Representative was asked to elaborate on the circumstances of their arrests.

    The Representative of Peru said the Commission must remind States of their responsibilities vis-à-vis their citizens. The appointment of the Personal Representative was welcomed and it was hoped that Cuba would align its standards of political and civil rights to the achievements made in the social sphere.

    Ms. Chanet responded to questions and said that just as everyone else she had just learned of the arrests of the dissidents and she did not have any further information on this issue. With regard to her mandate, she said that it would have been useful to enter into a dialogue with the Government. She assured the Commission that she would persevere.

    General Debate on Question of Violation of Human Rights Anywhere in World

    SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the negative fallout of the terrorist attacks of 11 September on the Muslim and Arab people had been a major preoccupation of the OIC. The Organization remained deeply perturbed over frantic assaults against Islam, its articles of faith, its tenets and its followers. Despite the firm support of Islamic countries in the war against terrorism, certain forces were bent upon equating Islam with terrorism and on promoting the ill-conceived notion of a clash of civilizations. Islam was a religion of peace; it spurned aggression; it called for peaceful coexistence, tolerance and respect among people; it underscored the dignity of human life and prohibited the killing of innocent people. The OIC found the defamation of Islam and Muslims in some countries utterly reprehensible. The OIC was also deeply concerned that the phenomenon of state terrorism and the exploitation of 11 September events to intensify repression of occupied Muslim people had been deliberately disregarded, while law-abiding Muslims in many parts of the world were being subjected to the worst forms of racial, ethnic and religious profiling.

    The full-scale invasion and reoccupation of Palestinian territories by the Israeli defence forces over the past 30 months was a source of deep anguish for the Islamic world. The OIC strongly condemned Israel's use of force and its attempts to undermine Palestinian national institutions and the Palestinian elected leadership and called upon the international community to put an end to Israeli aggression. The OIC also expressed concern about other international human rights situations and requested the international community to release its pledged assistance to Afghanistan; called for an early resumption of result-oriented talks between Pakistan and India over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir; welcomed Security Council resolution 1284 pertaining to humanitarian initiatives aimed at meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and alleviating their suffering; called for an early solution to the problem of prisoners and missing persons from Kuwait and other countries; and expressed its firm support for the right cause of the Turkish Muslim people of Cyprus.

    SIPHO GEORGE NENE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the politicization of the Commission adversely undermined discussion under agenda item 9. The country-specific resolutions presented under this item did not undergo the proper process of consultation and ended up dividing the Commission along the North-South divide instead of helping it to achieve its core mandate. The exercise of naming and shaming was an embarrassment to the credibility and dignity of the Commission and should be discontinued forthwith. If there was any seriousness and commitment to rectifying the alleged situation of human rights abuses in particular countries, then those sponsoring such resolutions must assume responsibility to assist the concerned countries to improve their situations.

    The African Group believed that non-confrontational approaches stood a better chance of engendering the cooperation of the concerned countries.

    The historical legacies of slavery, colonialism and apartheid had brought with them massive violations of human rights on the African continent, which was still grappling with the consequences of these legacies. The numerous reports received from both Special Rapporteurs and civil society confirmed the growing new trend of violations which took the form of environmental pollution, trafficking in human beings from poor countries to rich ones, new forms of racism, and xenophobic tendencies.

    CHUNG EUI-YONG (Republic of Korea) said a number of repressive regimes had continued to disregard universal human values for the sake of the perpetuation and very survival of the regimes themselves, at the expense of their people's human dignity and security. They had committed the most flagrant human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and executions, horrific treatment in prisons, and the repression of freedom of thought and movement. Such gross infringements of human rights called for determined and concrete efforts by the international community to bring them to an end. A growing number of desperate people had fled their economic plight and political oppression to neighbouring countries in search of food and freedom, often risking their lives in the process.

    On the Korean Peninsula, more than 7 million people had suffered the terrible pain of separation, many of them not knowing the whereabouts of their beloved family members for more than half a century. Since the historic June 2000 inter-Korean Summit, much progress had been made towards easing the pain of separated families with the holding of six months of exchange visits to date.

    In September 2002, an agreement was reached between South and North Korea on the building of a permanent reunion centre to facilitate such exchanges and to allow for them to be held on a regular basis. It was hoped that this momentum would be maintained and substantial progress made towards alleviating the pain of separation.

    NORMA NASCIMBENE DE DUMONT (Argentina) said that since 1976, the Commission on Human Rights had acted on resolutions on the question of human rights in Cyprus. This matter was still on the agenda and should be given its due priority. When on November 11, 2002, the Secretary-General had presented a document for a comprehensive agreement on the issue of Cyprus, the Government of Argentina had rejoiced and hoped that this long-awaited agreement could finally resolve the situation in Cyprus. Unfortunately, this had not been the case. The Government of Argentina still wished to thank the Secretary-General and Alvaro de Soto, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the situation in Cyprus, for their attempts to find a comprehensive and viable solution for all parties involved.

    The Commission was encouraged to keep this matter on the agenda and give it priority attention, since the continued division of the Cyprus affected human rights on the entire island. The situation in Cyprus was of particular importance to the Government of Argentina since the Government for many years had contributed Argentine troops to the United Nations mission for peacekeeping in Cyprus.

    The Commission must remain seized of this issue until a just and definitive solution had been found.

    TASSOS KRIEKOUKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union and acceding countries of the European Union, said the European Union was concerned over all human rights violations in the world. It was particularly concerned about situations in Burma/Myanmar, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Republic of Chechnya, the Sudan, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe. With regard to Iraq, while the international community was faced with a new situation with the beginning of the military conflict, the European Union reaffirmed its concerns about the systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq.

    The European Union hoped that the current conflict would end with minimum suffering and loss of life. The European Union welcomed the positive steps undertaken by Turkey in the field of human rights. The European Union also welcomed the progress achieved in countries of South Eastern Europe in the field of human rights and took note of the ongoing process in Albania of civilian control over the police, the well-organized and fair elections in Boznia-Herzegovina and the abolition of the death penalty in Serbia and Montenegro.

    The human rights situation in China remained a cause of concern despite some positive developments in the course of the last year. The European Union encouraged the Government of Indonesia to strengthen its efforts to protect human rights and put an end to impunity for human rights violations. The European Union was concerned at human rights violations perpetrated with impunity in Nepal, including extrajudicial executions, torture, rapes, disappearances and arbitrary detention. The European Union was particularly concerned about the application of the death penalty in Pakistan and about violence directed against persons belonging to minorities there. The European Union remained concerned about violation of freedom of association and the situation regarding freedom of expression and the media in Vietnam. The European Union expressed its deep concern at ongoing violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Burundi and the deterioration of the human rights situation in Cote d'Ivoire. The human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea remained a cause of great concern to the European Union. Concern was also expressed at human rights violations in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Togo, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

    AYMAN RAAD (Syria) said that at the turn of the Millennium, one had thought that many changes would come with it, including improvements in the human rights situation. However, violations of human rights had continued and even doubled. Syria regretted that the developing countries were targeted by some developed countries as violating human rights. This implied selectivity in human rights. Israel had continued to violate the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and that of Syrians in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

    The occupying power had denied civilians in the occupied territories their basic rights.

    The silence of the Western countries concerning human rights violations by Israel was regrettable. Israel had rejected all peaceful settlements. Israel should accept these peace initiatives, including the one adopted by the Arab Summit in Beirut. The Security Council had also adopted resolutions calling on Israel to abide by international instruments. Countries who claimed to be champions of human rights should be relentless in insisting that Israel respect its international obligations. The recent military aggression against Iraq was also deplorable. Civilians and residential areas had been targets of the aggression.

    Rights of Reply

    A Representative of Cuba, speaking in right of reply, said that everyone in the Commission knew that the true author of initiatives against Cuba was the United States and its mercenaries working towards annexation of Cuba into the United States. The Cuban people had striven to build a free and independent homeland and were now threatened by United States policy, a policy overwhelmingly rejected by the international community. It was strange that in the midst of expressing concerns about the right to free expression in Cuba, there had been no mention of the hundreds or even thousands of American peace protestors who had been imprisoned and prevented from exercising their civil and political rights.

    A Representative of Israel, speaking in right of reply, said it appeared that three days of discussion on item 8 were not sufficient for Syria and the OIC. Did the time allotted for item 8 not suffice? Maybe yet another statement on Israel was aimed at avoiding discussion of other human rights violations that were not convenient for Syria and the OIC. Did Syria and the OIC ask themselves why Israel had been compelled to build a security fence and enter some territories and install roadblocks? It was because of terrorism that such actions needed to be taken. Just yesterday Israel reported on a suicide bombing in Netanya. The OIC would do well if it condemned unequivocally terrorism and suicide bombings.

    A Representative of Armenia, responding to the statement made by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said Armenia wished that the principle of the right to self-determination could equally be applied to all situations without selectivity. Armenia was committed to the just and peaceful settlement of the conflict involving Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    A Representative of Iraq, speaking in right of reply, condemned the European Union's silence as to the current massacre of Iraqi civilians, the cruel sanctions imposed on Iraq for the last 12 years, and the use of depleted-uranium weapons against Iraq. The current invasion was totally without international support or legitimacy. The European Union had said nothing about the daily bombings of civilians, infrastructure, health and education facilities. These were crimes against humanity. How could the European Union remain silent?

    A Representative of Pakistan, speaking in right of reply, said the European Union was concerned about human rights all over the world except in Europe itself. The European Union turned a blind eye to violations in several parts of the world and violations in the European Union itself, including racism, racial discrimination, exploitation of women for commercial purposes and child pornography. In the words of the European Union, the raison d'etre of agenda item 9 was not to engage in finger pointing exercises. Did the European Union representative believe that the countries he had mentioned in his statement were the only countries where violations were taking place? Were not war, conflict and foreign occupation among the most flagrant violations of human rights?

    A Representative of India, speaking in right of reply, said a representative of a military dictatorship was speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which he did not deserve to do. India's Muslims were not persecuted. With regard to Jammu and Kashmir, the delegation of Pakistan was providing information which was unfounded. The people in that region enjoyed their rights as citizens of India.

    A Representative of Palestine, speaking in right of reply, said he had not intended to respond to the Representative of Israel. However, he was unable to remain silent in the face of Israeli aggression and allegations. Israel was an aggressor country, and only when this aggression was put to an end would the human rights of the Palestinian people be respected. The Palestinian people were faced with military occupation -- it was a crime against humanity and a violation of human rights. Only when the aggression ended would the resistance end.

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