Press Releases

    HR/CN/1056
    24 March 2004

    Commission Approves Special Sitting on Situation in Occupied Palestine Following Assassination of Sheikh Yassin

    Countries Speaking on Right to Development Call for International Aid, Fair Economic and Trading Systems

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 23 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights decided by a roll-call vote this afternoon to hold a special sitting on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory resulting from the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin on the morning of 22 March 2004.

    Commission Chairperson Mike Smith announced that the special sitting would be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 24 March.

    The decision was adopted by a vote of 34 in favour and 3 opposed, with 14 abstentions. Voting against the proposal were the United States, Eritrea, and Australia.  Among the abstaining countries were members of the European Union. A representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union condemned the assassination, but the Commission was shortly to take up its agenda item on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, and that would be the appropriate time to consider the issue.

    During debate earlier in the afternoon, African, Middle Eastern and Asian nations told the Commission on Human Rights that achievement of the right to development would require commitment and good governance from States, well-designed international help, and greater fairness in global economic and trading regimes.

    A representative of Nigeria said the right to development had to be made meaningful where it mattered the most, for people suffering the indignities and hardships of poverty; for minorities and indigenous peoples left out of the benefits of development whose human rights were systematically denied; for people who could be saved from the ravages of AIDS, including children orphaned by the pandemic; and for the millions who died needlessly from malaria, tuberculosis and other preventable diseases.

    A representative of the Sudan said the role of developed countries in creating obstacles to the right to development must be noted -- one could not simply point a finger at developing countries.  Progress must be made to open doors so that global economic and trading systems benefited all.  Iran said the global economy continued to be characterized by the development divide, and developing countries continued to confront problems of access to markets, capital and technology.

    And an official of Ethiopia said human rights became meaningless in the face of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease.

    Several countries drew connections between lack of progress in achieving the right to development and lack of progress in meeting the Millennium Goals set by the United Nations at the Millennium Summit in the year 2000.

    Among those contributing to the debate on the right to development were representatives of Paraguay, Qatar, Armenia, Nepal, Bahrain, Eritrea, Indonesia, Argentina (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group), India, Yemen, Iraq, Oman, Syria, Venezuela, Madagascar, Algeria, Kuwait, Holy See, Morocco, Zambia, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tunisia, and Angola.

    The Commission will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 24 March, to carry on its consideration of the right to development.  Following the special sitting beginning at 10 a.m., the Commission will carry on with a midday session and conclude its work at 6 p.m.

    Statements on Right to Development

    FRANCISCO BARREIRO PERROTTA (Paraguay) said that in the globalized world there were many threats to security, peace, stability, good governance and the full right to development to which countries legitimately aspired.  As stated by the Foreign Minister of Paraguay during the high-level segment, the Commission on Human Rights had the principal responsibility of guiding its efforts through constructive and collective action for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in conjunction with international law.

    Protectionism and international trade distortions harmed human rights, and an unbalanced global economy undermined the development of developing countries.  The international community was urged to revise discriminatory policies and search for consensus and cooperation, with a view to giving full effect to the right to development.

    MOHAMED ABDULLA AL-DEHAIMI (Qatar) said the right to development was one of the natural concerns of the developing countries.  Implementation of the right should be accompanied by a positive desire by all partners in the effort.  At the national level, the acquisition of knowledge was essential.  The Millennium Declaration had affirmed the need to meet the goals of development.

    Qatar had converted itself into a modern country through the adoption of a Constitution by referendum.  The country had made efforts to acquire the necessary skills for its development and modernization process.  Educational institutions had been strengthened and the participation of teachers and students enhanced.  Fora such as the Commission were beneficial for Qatar in its efforts to learn from the development experiences of other countries.

    ZOHRAB MNATSAKANIAN (Armenia) said there was compelling evidence of the benefits international cooperation could supply for successful implementation of national strategies and policies related to the right to development, to comprehensive improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the population, to the eradication of poverty, and to the pursuit of other goals and objectives in keeping with the Millennium Declaration and Plan of Action.

    While the emerging consensus among all major players -- including Member States, development agencies and the international development, financial and trade institutions -- to strengthen the global partnership for development was welcomed, it was obviously upon concrete actions and results that such partnerships would be judged by societies and peoples.  There was a need to mainstream the right to development, so that it was global in its reach and integrated coherently into the operational activities, policies and programmes of all relevant development agencies and international financial and trade institutions, as well as, obviously, the policies of national Governments.

    HAMATU MUKHTAR (Sudan) said it was necessary for the work of the Working Group to be concentrated in the future upon developing tools to achieve the objectives of the right to development and to strengthen cooperation and coordination to that end.  The right to development was an essential right closely linked to other human rights.  The international community must rebalance the deal, enabling all to regain their access to the right to development.  All citizens had the right to realize development and Governments must facilitate access to that right.  However, the role of developed countries in creating obstacles to the right to development must be noted; one could not simply point a finger at developing countries.  At Monterrey, all had agreed to promote development, particularly among least-developed countries.  Therefore, progress must be made to open doors so that the economic and trading systems benefited all.  A new partnership between the countries of the North and South was needed.  Developing countries should adhere to standards of good governance; international cooperation should be deepened; and the policies of the international economic system should be made more balanced. 

    In the Sudan, which was on the threshold of a peace agreement, it was essential to link peace to sustainable economic development.  The international community must as a first step guarantee the territorial integrity of the country.

    GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal) said the right to development was about realizing human capability and placing the person at the core of the development process.  It was the integration of all human rights into one overarching concept, aimed at the full realization of human rights.  Sustained dialogue at the national, regional and international levels in a spirit of cooperation and understanding was imperative for its operationalization.  Globalization neither always led to economic growth, nor did economic growth, in the wake of globalization, always result in poverty reduction.  All had a vital stake in the realization of the right to development, and Nepal was happy to see the international community’s growing realization and emerging consensus to forge a global partnership to bring this about.

    Nation States had the primary role to play in the development of a country, but there should also be a concrete and substantive contribution from the international community to attain the objectives of the right to development.  If development was multi-dimensional in nature, international cooperation needed to be multi-pronged.  It was true that the realization of a right as comprehensive as the right to development could only be possible through the promotion of mutual cooperation and collaborative efforts at the national and international levels.

    ALI E. ALSISI (Bahrain) lauded the report of the Independent Expert on the right to development and the efforts he had made in advancing its cause.  In Bahrain’s region, there was a problem concerning the right to development.  Poverty had persisted in many developing countries, with many children reduced to beggary.  Palestinian children were among the poorest in the world, as were Iraqi children.

    The right to development should be accompanied by expertise and the acquisition of knowledge.  It was for that reason that Bahrain had introduced a computerized system of education in schools to enhance learning among students.  The Government was also advancing freedom and fairness.  Women had been empowered and the rights of women upheld by guaranteeing their full participation in society.  The system of social security had been strengthened.  The Government also attached great importance to human resources.  International cooperation was necessary for the development of human resources and for implementation of the right to development.

    AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said the approach which integrated the values, principles and standards of the human rights system into development had been received with enthusiasm and had garnered wide support from the international community.  The Millennium Declaration also linked the right to development with the Millennium Goals while declarations of subsequent international conferences had also adopted international development goals which had become crucial in the crystallization of the issues and mandates of the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and other international development agencies.  It was now recognized that the implementation process of the right to development would have to be people-centred and that States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations should concentrate on achieving human security. 

    The empowerment and meaningful participation of people, especially at the grassroots level, would be critical for any real development effort.  Development depended on, and benefited from, the contribution of those presumed to be its beneficiaries.  Eradication of poverty had been viewed as the key to the success of the right to development.  About one-third of the world's population lived in abject poverty, and food was the single most defining issue of poverty.  Poverty had been particularly harsh on vulnerable groups, countries and regions; and it provided limited opportunities for education, health services and other social benefits. 

    SELESHI MENGESHA DIGAF (Ethiopia) said national action and international cooperation should reinforce each other through concrete measures to aid the development process.  The creation of an enabling environment at the national level by adopting and implementing concrete policy measures should conform to the human rights norms of participation, accountability, transparency, equity and non-discrimination.  The Ethiopian Constitution of 1995 provided for the right to development and noted the importance Ethiopia attached to that right. 

    Human rights became meaningless in the face of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease.   For Ethiopia, the fight against poverty and taking the requisite steps to promote growth and development remained the foremost challenges related to sustaining the country’s fledgling democracy. Ethiopia had reconfirmed its commitment to poverty reduction within a framework of macroeconomic stability.  The Government had continuously engaged the private sector in a dialogue on how to boost private sector development.  To effectively execute its programmes and to reduce the impact of the severe drought that Ethiopia had experienced last year, the continued support of the international community was crucial.  As a prerequisite for enhancing its development efforts, the Government had embarked a programme of devolution. The major goals were to bring the Government closer to the people, to give political representation and voice to diverse ethnic groups, and to make Government and resource allocation sensitive to local needs and preferences.

    YONATRI RILMANIA (Indonesia) said poverty had repeatedly been cited as the world’s number one problem.  For that reason, enhanced international cooperation to realize the right to development was imperative.  The right to development had been defined as a particular process of development through which all human rights and fundamental freedoms could be realized.

    Indonesia commended the work of the Independent Expert and the Working Group, but warned that the debate surrounding the right to development and related issues should not be characterized by a divide between its national and international dimensions, but should focus on a holistic approach.  The Working Group’s decision to depart from a strictly conceptual approach in favour of a more action-oriented approach to the right to development was welcomed.  The establishment of a high-level Task Force was fully endorsed by Indonesia.  It was also hoped that the constructive spirit and consensual outcome that had characterized the Working Group’s efforts would apply to the Commission’s deliberations on this subject.

    SERGIO CERDA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), said there was a need to step up efforts to give genuine effect to the right to development.  The Working Group had made an important contribution to the Commission’s work on this right, and, in this regard, GRULAC supported the establishment of the proposed Task Force.  It was not possible to achieve genuine progress through a divided perspective, given the interlinked nature of national and international efforts.  To make this right a reality, it was essential to reinvigorate cooperation.  Bridges should be built -- forms of connectivity that made it possible to achieve different objectives.  This change of paradigm was also linked to the redistribution of wealth and good governance at all levels -- national and international. 

    During the high-level seminar, experts had repeatedly pointed out how little progress had been made in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.  Identifying how inconsistencies and lack of progress could be redressed must be the primary focus of work on the right to development.  The involvement of different national protagonists and different international bodies was encouraged, as well as the designing of crosscutting policies.

    HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said that over 50 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the goal of achieving the inherent dignity of man was nowhere close to being realized for millions of poor around the globe.  The importance of the right to development, which represented a synthesis of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, lay in enabling the international community to address these important issues effectively.

    The right to development was a universal and inalienable right, and an integral part of fundamental human rights.  Rights were entitlements that entailed co-related duties, and the realization of the right to development could be ensured only if the existence of corresponding obligations was acknowledged both at the national and international levels.  Realization of the right to development required first and foremost effective policies at the national level.  But developing countries continued to remain starved of the resources required for the realization of this right. 

    ABDUL BIN RIMDAP (Nigeria) said Nigeria looked to the Commission to make the right to development meaningful where it mattered the most, for people suffering the indignities and hardships of poverty; for minorities and indigenous peoples left out of the benefits of development and whose human rights were systematically denied; for people who could be saved from the ravages of AIDS, including children orphaned by the pandemic; and for millions who died needlessly from malaria, tuberculosis and other preventable diseases.

    It would be inconceivable for the Commission to address and shape the international human rights agenda without taking into account the perspective of the realization of the right to development as a human right, and therefore the focus of the Working Group and its follow-up should be on mainstreaming and implementing the right to development as established in the Declaration on the Right to Development.

    MANAL AL-SALAHI (Yemen) said Yemen had taken a series of administrative and economic measures to improve the living conditions of its population.  Among the measures was the decentralization of the Government, with devolution of power to the regions.  The regions had been provided with the full power they needed to manage their own affairs.  To improve water supplies, medical services and educational facilities, the Government had been allocating a large amount of money to a number of civil services.

    A policy had also been adopted to implement development strategies.  Women had been empowered and they were actively participating in the affairs of the country.  The Government would take measures to conduct a demographic survey and census to allow it to design further appropriate development strategies.

    SAAD FATHALLAH (Iraq) said the economic, social and cultural policies of the previous regime had failed, coinciding with external crises.  That situation had resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi economy.  Now, the rates of illiteracy and infant mortality, combined with a huge external debt and the destruction of infrastructure, meant that Iraq had one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world, in spite of its natural riches.

    Available economic resources must be better exploited to raise living standards within Iraq, but that could not be accomplished without an improved security situation.  In improving its security situation, Iraq requested the assistance of its neighbours.  The country also would need improved bilateral and multilateral relations to improve its development situation.

    MOHAMMAD REZA ALBORZI (Iran) said that the importance of international cooperation and the international community’s responsibility for creating an enabling environment to meet internationally agreed development goals were pivotal to the realization of the right to development.  The central focus of international development efforts must be the creation of a favourable international economic environment.  While recognizing that States had the primary responsibility for their own social and economic development, lasting progress in the implementation of the right to development required both effective policies at the national level and an enabling international environment. 

    The global economy continued to be characterized by the development divide, and developing countries continued to confront problems of access to markets, capital and technology.  Equitable opportunity for development must be an imperative principle of international cooperation and the right of accession of every country to international financial, monetary and trade organizations should be facilitated, free from any political consideration.  The international economic environment could not be responsive to the needs of the world’s majority if developing countries continued to be sidelined in macroeconomic policy coordination.

    SAIF B. EL AMRI (Oman) said the importance of the principles of democracy and development for individuals whilst maintaining human rights could not be underestimated.  The right to development was one of the most important rights aspired to by peoples, especially in under-developed countries.  Its achievement would allow two-thirds of the world’s population to escape poverty.

    The aims of human development were not still, and changed as the world changed.  At the international level, no effort had been spared by Oman to participate in the efforts of the United Nations to implement the necessary mechanisms for the right to development. 

    HUSSAM-EDIN A’ALA (Syria) said the Declaration of the Right to Development and other documents, including the Vienna Declaration, had affirmed that the right was an inalienable human right and indivisible from all other rights.  However, the international community was not yet ready to abide by the concept of that right.  It was regrettable that some countries were in favour of individual development rather than the development of nations.

    Unfair competition in international trade and inequitable distribution of wealth would not help the international community to realize the right of development and would not allow the people of the world to enjoy human rights fully.  The double standards of some countries in terms of human rights and development would only hinder the international community from achieving the goals of the right to development.

    DIEGO IBARRA MARTINEZ (Venezuela) said the right to development should be recognized by all as calling for an active role to be played by both States and the international community, with the purpose of achieving fair progress.  The right to development was inalienable and should be implemented through effective development policies at the national level and a favourable economic environment, both domestically and internationally.

    The Government of Venezuela had designed strategies aimed at eradicating poverty and achieving balance in terms of access to justice, education and health care, among other factors.  This approach made the individual the focus of national development strategy.  Efforts related to the right to development also recently had been undertaken at the regional level by the Organization of American States.  Venezuela supported for the statement given on behalf of GRULAC.

    CLARAH ANDRIANJAKA (Madagascar) said it was true that problems linked to development were very complex.  It was true that the development of each country was primarily the responsibility of its Government, and this should be translated into action through the adoption of appropriate development and good governance policies.  But it was illusory to hope that the efforts of poor countries would be sufficient to rapidly realize the right to development.

    Without the implication of the international community into the process through a reinforcement of international cooperation, it would be difficult to surmount the obstacles facing realization of the right to development.  Peace, development and human rights were interdependent; the promotion of peace and international security in a globalized world necessarily passed through the respect and realization of human rights, as well as through the installation of an economic environment that was favourable to national and international efforts in the context of the process of development.  Without peace, political, economic and social stability between nations, human rights could not be universally enjoyed.  It was therefore essential for all nations to reinforce cooperation in the context of a level partnership that was destined to eliminate poverty and promote sustainable development.

    LAZHAR SOUALEM (Algeria) said the adoption by consensus of the conclusions and recommendations of the Working Group was a significant political signal emblematic of international commitment to the promotion of the right to development.  This consensus was also indicative of the encouraging evolution noted during the deliberations of the Working Group, and was a step towards making the international community’s commitment to the right to development a reality.  This ambition would of course depend on the collective will to progress gradually both on the national and international level towards action plans that were fully capable of responding to the challenges posed by the realization, within the set deadlines, of the entirety of the goals of the Millennium, primarily those that were fundamental in character, namely, universal access to education, food, and health.

    For the majority of developing countries, globalization had not up to now launched the hoped-for economic growth; worse, it had accentuated in most cases inequalities between and within nations.  There was a need to carry out deep-reaching reforms to the governance of the world, to establish fair rules, to elaborate responsible international policies and to set up institutions that were truly responsible for their actions.

    M. NAJEEB AL-BADER (Kuwait) said Kuwait thanked the Independent Expert on the right to development for his important report.  International cooperation was essential for achieving development, particularly from financial agencies that should be providing assistance to developing countries.  In the past, Kuwait had provided financial assistance to one hundred countries around the world and the amount had been equal to 4 per cent of the country's gross national product (GNP).

    The invasion of Kuwait by the former regime of Iraq had badly affected the development the country and had hindered further progress.  It had damaged a number of national institutions that were the focus of development.  Kuwait counted on the cooperation of the international community in its development efforts and believed that such cooperation should also be extended to all countries in need.

    M. SILVANO M. TOMASI (Holy See) said the pace of change had accelerated in a very tangible and visible way in recent years.  New and serious venues were needed to assess the impact of globalization, especially on the poorer and more vulnerable members of society.  Globalization had allowed the emergence of a true planetary conscience more sensitive to injustice, poverty, discrimination, degradation of the environment, and with greater expectations that a convergence of efforts would remedy these shortcomings.

    The right to development connected and animated the promotion and protection of the two interdependent covenants of human rights that served as lungs providing oxygen for the flourishing of civil society.  The indispensable convergence of human rights and economic policies was self-evident.  However, States had the primary responsibility to promote and protect and implement the right to development.  The complementarity of different stakeholders had proved effective and productive, and thus, in dealing with the international system of governance, States, including the poorest, should be permitted rightful access to the decision-making procedures of organizations and institutions which affected their future. 

    ABDELFATTAH ELKADIRI (Morocco) said the right to development was an integral part of human rights and flowed directly from the dignity inherent in the human person, the foundation of liberty, justice and peace in the world.  This right should be treated on a par with the other rights.  Even though the international community had announced its intent to bring it up to the level of a universal right, it was necessary to state, today, that in truth, the world was far from this legitimate aspiration.

    If the industrialized countries could apply the right to development in an appropriate manner, the situation was different for the developing countries, which had great difficulties in ensuring that a minimum of their population enjoyed this right.  This was not due to a lack of will, but to insufficient means, financial resources, and appropriate help.  The international community needed to display more solidarity and cooperation in order to allow those whose means were insufficient to realize the right to development.  Some African countries -- those most vulnerable -- were under threat from many things, including the AIDS pandemic, and needed the international community to react rapidly and efficiently.

    LOVE MTESA (Zambia) said that although the recommendations of the Working Group did not go far enough to meet Zambia’s expectations, considering the nature of the negotiations and in the spirit of compromise, the country could go along with the results.  There was pleasure that the Working Group had indicated that at its subsequent meetings it would give priority to the mainstreaming and implementation of the right to development, bearing in mind that the right was a universal and inalienable right, an integral part of fundamental human rights.

    Many governments in developing countries were being blamed for the hardship and misery that had occurred as a result of the failure of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank economic prescriptions.  It was ironic was that some of the blame came from the very institutions that had developed the failed programmes.  Programmes prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank should be country driven and oriented -- in other words, they should be nationally owned if they were to result in meaningful development.

    ODILE SONGHO-MARLINIER, of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that recent developments related to the implementation of the right to development had been marked by progress in consistency and cooperation.  The results realized at the high-level seminar organized by the Working Group on the right to development illustrated this progress.  Moreover, since the Commission’s last session, progress had also been seen within the UNDP and within the wider United Nations system in terms of poverty reduction, the integration of human rights mechanisms into United Nations programming, and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    To help with poverty reduction, an operational structure had been established by the UNDP in conjunction with the Office of the High Commissioner that permitted questions related to poverty reduction and human rights to be addressed with greater effectiveness.  The Office of the High Commissioner had also been instrumental in the elaboration of the United Nations Development Group’s Plan of Action, which would facilitate the United Nations system’s ability to support national efforts to protect and promote human rights.  Finally, with regard to the Millennium Development Goals, it should be recognized that the process was as important as the results and the High Commissioner’s proposals for the achievement of the Goals was welcomed.

    HABIB MANSOUR (Tunisia) said that despite the recognition of the right to development as a universal and inalienable right, the implementation of this right was far from being a reality.  Persistent vacillations on the modalities of implementation could be perceived as a demobilization of the international community when confronted with the extreme levels of poverty against which many countries were fighting.

    It was indisputable that -- in a context characterized more and more by globalization and the interdependence of interests -- the divide between the countries of the North and South was only growing bigger and bigger.  When subscribing to the Millennium Declaration, the entirety of the international community had given itself the priority goal of eliminating absolute poverty and social exclusion.  This commitment was sadly far from being translated into concrete action.

    JOAQUIM MANGUEIRA (Angola) said Angola supported the statement made by Malaysia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.  As had been highlighted in the report of the fifth session of the Working Group on the right to development, international cooperation and assistance were necessary to realize that right, especially in developing countries.  Angola was aware of the difficulties the international community faced in carrying out its duties despite the will and the action of Governments to implement social and economic programmes.  The right to development should be seen through a global perspective.  It should be seen as including the right to adequate financial resources for development and the right to equitable global trade, among other matters.

    Action on Decision on Special Sitting

    In a decision (document E/CN.4/2004/L.3) on a special sitting of the Commission on Human Rights during its sixtieth session, adopted by a roll-call vote of 34 in favour and 3 opposed, with 14 abstentions, the Commission determined to hold a special sitting on an urgent basis to consider the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory resulting from the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin on the morning of 22 March 2004.

    The results of the roll-call vote were as follows:

    In favour (34):  Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

    Against (3):  Australia, Eritrea and United States.

    Abstentions (14):  Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

    Commission Chairperson Mike Smith announced that the special sitting would be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 24 March. 

    SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said draft decision L.3 now before the Commission expressed indignation at the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a violent act carried out against a non-military target.  The decision condemned this grave violation of international humanitarian law which had resulted in worldwide outrage.  The assassination could be added to a long list of such killings by Israel which had posed a grave threat to peace in the region.  It was hoped that the Commission would support the OIC’s request for an urgent special meeting to examine the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories in the wake of the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin on the morning of 22 March 2004.

    NAELA GABR (Egypt) said Egypt was the first country that had sought peace in the Middle East.  It believed that peace was the only choice for the security of the region.  The assassination of Sheikh Yassin was an assassination of peace.  The peace process had been endangered by the incident, and the situation would lead to further conflict.  Egypt had condemned the assassination and supported the holding of a special session.

    HAMATU MUKHTAR (Sudan) said the international community had been confronted with a very serious incident, the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.  The Sheikh had been a handicapped old man, unable to do harm.  Yet the Israeli Government was proud of its actions.  The members of this Commission had a responsibility to condemn forthrightly such assassinations.  Sudan supported the holding of a special session.

    RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said Cuba also was in favour of holding of a special sitting of the Commission on the situation that had resulted from the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.

    MOHAMED ABDULLA AL-DUHAIMI (Qatar) expressed support for the holding of a special session.

    ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said this assassination was against international law and had been condemned as such. The Commission was the voice of the international conscience, and should be heard by the world, particularly in such a case.  The Commission should raise its voice.

    RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said there was no doubt regarding Israel’s right to self-defense, but the US Government was troubled about this event, since it had caused violence in Gaza.  However, the United States opposed the resolution, since it was not germane to the work of the Commission and distracted from its ambitious programme of work. This politicization of the Commission’s work discredited the Commission, and unfairly discriminated against one member.  It was counterproductive political grandstanding that would not contribute one iota to the fragile peace process in the Middle East, nor advance the responsibilities of the Commission.

    EDDI HARIYADHI (Indonesia) said the assassination was strongly deplored, and Indonesia was of the view that this was against international law.  Violence would not solve the problem in the Middle East; it would cause further humanitarian tragedy.  The assassination could cause an escalation of violent acts.  Such a serious crime meditated by a government as part of a pattern deserved a strong response from the Commission, and Indonesia, therefore, supported this resolution.

    SAEED MOHAMED AL-FAIHANI (Bahrain) said it was lamentable that Israel should assassinate a blind, disabled old man.  This was an extra-judicial act that deserved condemnation.  The premeditated planning of this ignoble crime indicated that Israel did not respect the right to life or international law, and did not adhere to international conventions.  This assassination would compound tensions in occupied Palestine and would worsen the tense relations in the area.  The move towards peace would be undermined.  The Commission should assume its responsibilities with regard to what was happening in the Middle East, particularly with regard to human rights and international humanitarian law.

    SHA ZUKANG (China) said historical events often bore striking similarities.  Two years ago, during the fifty-eighth session, held against a background of violence in the Middle East, the Commission had decided to conduct a special sitting on the topic of the Middle East, and the United States had voted against the proposal.  Two years later, the Commission was discussing the same problems.  The most basic human right, that to life, could be taken away at any moment by a bullet, and the event of the 22 March had further aggravated the situation in the Middle East.  There was an ever-growing need to have a special session on this issue.

    ROGER JULIEN MENGA (Republic of the Congo) said the African Group had been deeply moved to learn of the assassination, and expressed its grave concern regarding the effect that this odious act would have on the future of the region.  A special session should be held. 

    MOHAMED SALECK OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said Mauritania supported the appeal made by Pakistan.  Mauritania had condemned and would continue to condemn such acts as this assassination, and it supported the suggestion of Pakistan to discuss these events.

    YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said if the Commission voted to hold the special sitting, it would be the first time in the history of the United Nations that a session was dedicated to lauding, supporting, and glorifying a major leader of a terrorist organization.  Every man and woman of conscience, any objective follower of the debate would cringe in horror, recoil in disgust that a United Nations body devoted to upholding human rights would, in effect, support the terrible wrongs the Hamas terrorist group, under Sheik Yassin, had committed.  The bias and distorted standards manifested in the Commission year after year and in an increasing manner since the beginning of its deliberations last Friday had once again been expressed.  Israel strongly urged all to vote against the holding of such a biased special sitting that only served as another occasion for distorted standards, wild accusations, and inflammatory speech, and not to lend their voices and hands to further reducing and degrading the credibility of the Commission and the United Nations as a whole.

    NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country, said what had happened yesterday was a flagrant violation of human rights. The Commission had been condemning this sort of thing for the last 35 years.  Israeli violations of human rights were not the aim of the sitting -- it was known that Israel did not abide by international norms and the resolutions of the Security Council.  Israeli radio had broadcast that the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister had decided upon the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.  The Prime Minister had lauded the killing of Yassin and had promised to continue Israel’s policy of the assassination of  Palestinians.  The Commission had to look at this Israeli policy of assassination.  The Commission sought to achieve a better future for humanity, and it should take a stand against the flagrant crimes Israel was committing in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The Commission, which was established under international law, had the right to examine the situation in the region.

    MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the Council of the European Union had condemned the extrajudicial killing of Sheikh Yassin and seven others yesterday.  Not only were extrajudicial killings outside the law, they undermined international law, which was a key component of the fight against terrorism.  The European Union had also repeatedly condemned the terrorist actions of Hamas.  The Commission was shortly to take up its consideration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, and that would be the appropriate time for the Commission to consider this issue.  Moreover, extrajudicial killings had long been a subject of the Commission’s consideration.  Those European Union members that were also members of the Commission would therefore abstain from the vote in light of these considerations.

    AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said Eritrea was categorically opposed to assassination as the means of achieving any political goals whatsoever.  However, Eritrea did not feel that the holding of a meeting on a subject that would be discussed under two other separate agenda items would be useful.  Eritrea would therefore vote against the proposal.

    VLADIMIR PARSHIKOV (Russian Federation), in explanation of the vote after the vote, said Russia had voted in favour of the special session based on the consideration that the meeting would be devoted to the situation in the Middle East, which had significantly worsened after the death of Sheikh Yassin.  The prospects of peace had been considerably worsened by his assassination.

    HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India), in explanation of the vote after the vote, said India was appalled by the killing of Sheikh Yassin yesterday.  India felt that the action would only exacerbate the cycle of violence upon violence, both in Gaza and elsewhere in the region.  India had supported the Palestinian cause since its own independence in 1947 and felt that the people of Palestine deserved the full support of the international community.  There could be no military solution to the problems of the region.  There could be no justification for any act of terror.  As a victim of terror itself, India knew that no compromise could be made with terrorists and urged the international community to be firm in combating terrorism.  While States had the right to defend themselves, States must also be judged by higher norms and standards than terrorist entities, as they were the main upholders of international law.  With those considerations in view, India had voted in favour of the holding of the special session.

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