Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3792
    27 October 2004

    Addressing Third Committee, High Commissioner for Human Rights Stresses Intention to Strengthen Capacity Regarding Rule of Law

    Also Says International Community Must Not Abandon Resolve to Confront Terrorism within Framework of Existing Rights, International Law

    NEW YORK, 26 October (UN Headquarters) -- Emphasizing the rule of law as central to all human rights initiatives, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) that she intended to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the area of the rule of law.

    She said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had articulated a legal framework that served to bind global efforts to promote and protect human rights. She highlighted her Office’s work to promote human rights in the areas of business, globalization, women, trafficking, indigenous people, racial discrimination, and the implementation of human rights legislation.  Noting that deeply entrenched rights had been rolled back in the name of the war against terrorism, she said the international community must not abandon its resolve to confront terrorist acts within the framework of existing rights and the rule of law.

    She said providing human rights support for a growing number of United Nations peace missions was one of her Office’s principal functions.  The protection of human rights must be a core priority in United Nations field activities.  Gross human rights violations were invariably an advance indicator and by-product of conflict.  Her office, therefore, needed to strengthen its capacity and readiness to participate actively in United Nations conflict resolution efforts to deal appropriately with urgent requests to investigate large-scale human rights violations.

    Addressing concerns about the implementation of human rights legislation, she said only 104 States had ratified the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides the right of petition to individuals.  She urged all Member States to work towards greater ratification of and adherence to that protocol.  She also called on States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, whose purpose was to establish a system of regular visits by independent bodies to places where people were deprived of their liberty and where fundamental rights were particularly at risk or were insufficiently protected.  The Optional Protocol so far had received only five ratifications, and 20 were needed for it to become operational.

    During the dialogue with delegations following her presentation, Ms. Arbour responded to questions posed by the representatives of Switzerland, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Canada, Guinea, Cuba, Peru, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, China, Algeria, Libya, Argentina and Burkina Faso. She said the Secretary-General’s “Action 2” reform initiative, to be officially launched on 27 October, was aimed at consolidating the efforts of the United Nations system to advance human rights protection at the country level, so that international standards and laws could have practical effects on the ground.  If properly supported by the United Nations and other partners, she said, the initiative could assist in the protection and promotion of human rights to a greater extent than any other managerial initiative to date.

    At the outset of the meeting, the representatives of Iraq, Mozambique, Jordan and Indonesia presented statements on issues related to the implementation of human rights instruments and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

    Continuing the Committee’s consideration of items related to human rights, the representatives of the following countries made statements:  Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Morocco, Suriname (on behalf of CARICOM), Norway, the United States, Myanmar, Japan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Kenya, China, India, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Turkey, Burkina Faso, Fiji, Jordan, and Eritrea presented general statements.  The Observer of the Holy See, and a representative from the Food and Agriculture Organization also spoke.

    Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced reports submitted for the Committee’s consideration on human rights.  Johan Schölvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, also addressed the Committee.

    Concluding today’s meeting, the representatives of China, Belarus, Japan, and the United States made statements in exercise of the right of reply.

    The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 27 October, to continue its consideration of human rights issues.

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