9 November 2005
Despite International Commitment in Durban Declaration, Denial of Rights Still Widespread, Assembly's Social Committee Told
Debate Continues on Human Rights Questions; Continuing Intolerance for Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, Minorities Cited as Issues
NEW YORK, 8 November (UN Headquarters) -- Despite the international community's pronounced commitment to the principles of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, widespread racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia still existed and many peoples continued to be denied their right to self-determination, several speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it continued its general debate on human rights questions.
Distinctions based on race, religion and culture had led to intolerance and rejection of refugees, asylum-seekers and minorities in many parts of the world, Algeria's representative said. Racist and xenophobic ideas were re-emerging and global efforts to counteract such ideas were weakening. The United Nations must maintain the momentum begun at Durban to shed light on injustices. The right of people to self-determination was an essential principle of international relations and international law.
Chile's representative agreed, saying the international community must have the political resolve to implement the Durban Declaration's call for ending racial discrimination and upholding international standards. Chile's Plan for Equality and Non-Discrimination, aimed at ensuring greater democracy and citizenship, and its participation in the Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights, was aimed at countering xenophobia and homophobia, and promoting and protecting human rights.
The delegate of Japan said his country was making headway to bring a Human Rights Protection Bill to the Japanese Diet and to have it adopted. The legislation would prohibit unfair discriminatory treatment, abuses and other human rights violations, as well as allow for the investigation of discriminatory acts or practices. He said racial discrimination was a challenge for all countries, since there were few, if any, where it did not exist.
Libya's representative said racism persisted in various parts of world, particularly against migrants, refugees, indigenous peoples and foreigners in many countries, and human rights violations continued to go unpunished. He said Islamaphobia, "perpetuated" by Western media since the 9 September 2001 attacks, painted a false picture linking Islam and terrorism. Terrorist actions had also been aimed at Arab countries and Arabs were subjected to racial discrimination in public life.
The Committee also heard the introduction of a number of draft resolutions, on human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. There were texts on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa; on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights; and on the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Five draft texts on human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives were also introduced, relating to the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkmenistan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Myanmar.
The representatives of Cameroon, India, Norway, United Kingdom, Canada and United States introduced draft resolutions.
The representatives of Cuba, Liechtenstein, Chile, Iraq, Egypt, Venezuela, Pakistan, Syria, India, Iran and the Russian Federation also made statements today. The observer for Palestine also spoke.
The representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea spoke in the exercise of the right of reply, following the introduction of a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in his country.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., tomorrow, 9 November, to conclude its debate of human rights questions and begin consideration of its agenda item on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions.
The General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general debate on human rights questions. (For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/3835 of 7 November.)
It was also to hear the introduction of three draft resolutions on such questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms: the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/60/L.30); national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/C.3/60/L.33); and the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/C.3/60/L.40).
The Committee was also to hear the introduction of five drafts on human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, including the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/C.3/60/L.41); the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/60/L.45); the situation of human rights in Turkmenistan (document A/C.3/60/L.46); the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/60/L.48); and the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/60/L.53).
Introduction of drafts
The representative of Cameroon introduced a draft resolution on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/60/L.30). She said the Centre had a mandate to support a culture of human rights and democracy in the countries of the community of Central Africa to prevent conflicts, as well as to promote peace and sustainable development. Its objectives included the training of personnel dealing with human rights issues, support for the creation and strengthening of national institutions responsible for human rights and democracy, the diffusion of international instruments related to those institutions, and support for agencies dealing with human rights issues. She added that the Centre had been called upon more and more for assistance, and, therefore, required more funds and resources, as called for in the draft.
Introducing a draft resolution on National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/C.3/60/L.33), the representative of India said national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights had emerged over the years as an important and effective instrument to promote and protect human rights in an increasing number of countries across the world. The draft resolution welcomed the rapidly growing interest throughout the world in the creation and strengthening of independent, pluralistic national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. It also recognized that the United Nations had an important role to play in assisting the development of national institutions, and that its activities and programmes should be reinforced to meet the requests for assistance from States.
The representative of Norway introduced a draft resolution on the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/C.3/60/L.40), which she said reiterated the importance of the Declaration that had been adopted by a consensus in the General Assembly in 1998. The draft called upon States to give full effect to the Declaration, and encouraged the strengthening of cooperation between the Special Representative on the situation of human rights defenders, other special procedures of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other United Nations bodies. She said it also called upon all States to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced the draft on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/C.3/60/L.41). Despite progress made, he said, he was deeply concerned about ongoing human rights situations, particularly in the eastern part of the country, where the use of armed violence, reprisals against civilians, and violence against women as a weapons of war all deserved condemnation.
He called on the international community to take urgent action to protect civilians and end impunity. The resolution was tabled with the cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The goal of the co-sponsors was to reach consensus with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and all interested parties, and that the text's adoption would lead to an improvement of the human rights situation in that country.
The representative of Canada then introduced the draft on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/60/L.45), saying the text called upon the Government of Iran to abide by its obligations under international human rights instruments, and to take immediate action to improve the situation in several specific areas. The text also called for a re-examination of the situation during the General Assembly's next session.
During the past year, he said, the performance of Iranian officials in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms had deteriorated. The sparse positive developments and lack of progress and action by the Government in 2005 were serious cause for concern. Many members of the international community agreed with that assessment. The draft resolution highlighted special and serious human rights concerns in Iran, from widespread denial of basic freedoms to inhumane treatment and punishment. It called on Iranian officials to take action. Opportunities for Iranians to express themselves, and to advance human rights, were severely constrained. "Outspoken Iranians" found themselves at risk of further human rights violations, he added. The international community must express its views and he suggested that concerted international attention would promote and accelerate positive change.
The representative of the United States then introduced a draft on the situation of human rights in Turkmenistan (document A/C.3/60/L.46), saying that the human rights situation there had remained poor since the General Assembly's resolution a year ago. Freedom of assembly, speech and press still did not exist, nor did freedom of religion and the right to worship freely. Relatives of citizens who were living outside the country and engaged in human rights activities had been harassed and prevented from travelling abroad.
He said the Government of Turkmenistan needed to improve its responsiveness to human rights violations. It continued to restrict the access of non-governmental and private organizations. The draft resolution urged officials to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to operate, pursuant to its mandates. Officials had taken the positive step of passing a law to prohibit child labour and agreeing to work with non-governmental organizations, but such improvements must be lasting. The focus must be kept on continued human rights violations in other areas, to ensure that egregious abuses were exposed and not repeated. The draft resolution focused attention on these critical violations.
The representative of the United Kingdom introduced a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/60/L.48), on behalf of the European Union and co-sponsors. He said the European Union welcomed the constructive developments outlined in the report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country. However, the European Union remained deeply concerned by the situation; there were continued reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights, perpetuated as a result of the absence of due process or the rule of law. The violations included sanctions on citizens who had returned from abroad, as well as severe restrictions on freedoms of thought, conscience, opinion and expression. The European Union was also concerned by the continued refusal of the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cooperate with or recognize the Special Rapporteur's mandate. He noted that it was the first time that a resolution on the human rights situation in the country had been tabled at the General Assembly.
Speaking after the introduction of the text, the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said his delegation wanted to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the leading States of the resolution were the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, who had waged a war and massacre against his country for centuries and refused to apologize for its crimes against humanity. Those "ring leaders", he said, were responsible for the division of the peninsula of Korea and for inflicting nothing but innumerable misfortunes. He said his delegation resolutely rejected the resolution because it was politically motivated and aimed at isolating and stifling the country by distorting the human rights situation. Furthermore, tabling a resolution while refusing dialogue was an act to seek confrontation. The three leading States, he added, were also selective, and demonstrated double standards, because they found fault only with developing countries that had different ideas from the rest, and were following independent roles. The draft resolution was neither objective nor impartial, and the human rights situation described was far from the reality in the country, as it was based on unverified information.
Introducing a draft on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/60/L.53), the representative of the United Kingdom said the text was the result of an ongoing consultative process between the co-sponsors and interested delegations, including the delegation of Myanmar. In some areas, there had been welcome developments in Myanmar, which had been reflected in the draft. However, the European Union remained gravely concerned by the human rights situation there, as shown by the significantly reduced cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations system. He said the European Union firmly believed that Myanmar should view the important offices of the Envoy and Special Rapporteur to the country as positive forces. The draft resolution attempted to take a forward-looking approach to address human rights violations, and to achieve an inclusive restoration of democracy in Myanmar.
ABDELOUAHAB OSMANE (Algeria) said the United Nations had made progress in combating apartheid and racism. The Durban Conference and Plan of Action were well intentioned and practical, but the international community was responsible for its implementation. Despite such commitments and repeated well-meaning statements, racism and xenophobia still existed to an alarming degree in many regions. Distinctions based on race, religion and culture had led to intolerance and rejection of refugees, asylum-seekers and minorities. The international community must be concerned with the recent resurgence of racist and xenophobic ideas. Racial or cultural superiority, including racist speeches and statements, should not be defended in any circumstance.
He said the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination had presented an unequivocal picture of the situation and drew attention to the weakening of global efforts to counteract racism and xenophobia. The United Nations must react rapidly and in a determined way by maintaining the momentum begun at Durban to shed light on injustices. The right of people to self-determination was an essential principle of international relations and international law.
Despite the efforts and achievements of the United Nations in decolonization, including the recent victory of the people of Timor-Leste, such work was incomplete. Other peoples continued to appeal to the international community to enjoy their inalienable right to self-determination, including the Palestinians and peoples of the Maghreb region in Western Sahara. He said he supported Security Council Resolution 1495 of 2003, expressing hope that it would bring a definitive settlement of the Western Sahara question, and peace and stability to the region.
SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan) said that throughout history many people had suffered from discrimination based on their race, as well as their colour, sex, language or religion, and also for historical, social, cultural and economic reasons. To engage in an act of racial discrimination was to commit one of the most serious violations of human rights, and one most deserving of condemnation. In response, the United Nations had developed human rights norms and mechanisms, and the international community was able to come together, for example, to achieve the abolition of apartheid.
On the other hand, he continued, new phenomena, including globalization, the growing number of migrant workers and the development of high technology, had created new situations that might disseminate racism and racial discrimination. In addition, in conflict situations, racism and racial discrimination had become key factors triggering genocide.
As the report of the Special Rapporteur noted, it was true that, when dealing with a particular issue of discrimination, it was necessary to understand its background and cause, as well as its links with other forms of discrimination in society. In Japan, he continued, both national and local governmental bodies had taken measures against discrimination, including instituting public education and promoting awareness programmes. Those measures had been effective in improving the situation, although there might still be problems, and further efforts were required in order to enact appropriate legislation.
For the past several years, his Government had made efforts to bring a Human Rights Protection Bill to the Diet and to have it adopted. It included a prohibition on unfair discriminatory treatment, abuses and other human rights violations, as well as the investigation of discriminatory acts or practices. He said there were few countries, if any, where some form of racial discrimination and xenophobia did not exist, which, therefore, made racial discrimination a challenge for all countries.
The representative of Cuba noted that civilizations and religions like Islam had been discredited and even "demonized" with the rise to power of right-wing parties in many developed countries. He said the brutal beating by New Orleans police officers of an elderly black man, Robert Davis; the bleeding to death of Filiberto Ojeda, an independence fighter from Puerto Rico; the mistreatment of Mexican immigrants; and the daily torture and humiliation of prisoners at Guantanamo Naval Base were consequences of a philosophy based on racial superiority. In an arbitrary and fundamentalist way, transnational circles of power were developing a project of "peaceful" domination, which aimed to impose a unique political and economic model supporting their control and ideological domination of the world.
He said a hegemonic Power was currently giving itself the unilateral right to attack any country in the world, as a pre-emptive action. The same Power had acted against the Cuban people for 46 years -- supporting a mercenary invasion, threatening nuclear attack, plotting to assassinate its main leaders, illegally occupying Guantanamo Bay, and implementing a genocidal blockade.
That Power, he continued, had welcomed into its territory the international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who was responsible for destroying a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft in October 1976, killing 73 innocent civilians, and many other actions against Cuban and foreign citizens. Posada Carriles had also organized a bombing campaign against hotels in Havana City, and masterminded an action against President Fidel Castro in Panama, in 2000. A Venezuelan extradition request submitted to the United States was still in force, but the United States Government had remained silent, violating regulations agreed by the two nations.
He said the "abhorrent war against Cuba and its sovereignty" would only contribute to the unity of its people and strengthen its fighting spirit.
PATRICK RITTER (Liechtenstein) said the potential of the right to self-determination as an essential tool to conflict prevention and the consolidation of stability was yet to be explored to its fullest extent. Many conflicts occurred because people seeking ways of asserting their distinctive identity found that they had no accepted means by which they could give expression to their distinctiveness. As a consequence, they viewed independence as their only option, even though it was the one option the State of which they were part was most likely to resist.
He said the exercise of the right to self-determination could, however, not be equated with attaining independence, within or outside the framework of decolonization. Rather, it was an ongoing process through which peoples and communities freely determined their political status and freely pursued their economic, social and cultural development. His country had a long-standing commitment to the right of self-determination and the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, established in 2000 at Princeton University, sought to create an objective and non-polemical environment for the discussion of the root causes of a people's desire for increased autonomy or independence, while reducing the tumultuous and potentially violent processes that could occur in times of transition.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said he supported the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which Chile had chaired; they reaffirmed commitments made to end racial discrimination and uphold international standards. Since the 1990s, Chile had developed macroeconomic policies to enable economic growth and fairly distribute that growth and subsequent social benefits. It had adopted measures to ensure equal standards of living and strengthen basic infrastructure and services for the poor, including housing, education, health and justice. Further, it had adopted policies to extend disability insurance to the poor and special support for indigenous groups.
He said 46 different ministry departments and 60 organizations representing indigenous peoples, HIV/AIDS, the elderly, disabled persons, and ethnic minorities, among others, were working together to end racism and racial intolerance. Chile had recently announced its Plan for Equality and Non-Discrimination aimed at ensuring greater democracy and citizenship. It was important to counter xenophobia and homophobia and to promote and protect human rights.
Efforts were being implemented at the national level and would serve to allow Chile to make progress in ensuring sustained efforts in its struggle against racism and racial discrimination. The international community must have the necessary political resolve to implement the Durban Declaration; Chile was working to do that within the Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights.
AHMED A.A. ABASS (Iraq) reaffirmed the importance his Government accorded to the United Nations principles on combating racism and racial discrimination. It set particular store by reinforcing the fight against them and against related forms of intolerance, in order to ensure a better future for Iraq, where each and every one could fully enjoy the rights to which they were entitled.
He said that article 14 of Iraq's Constitution stated that all Iraqi citizens were equal before the law, and that no forms of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination would be tolerated on the basis of social status or religious belief. Its main goal was to guarantee the well-being and welfare of the Iraqi people, as well as the full enjoyment of their rights and fundamental freedoms. The Government also believed that all minorities had the right to express and practice their religions, and to form associations and hold meetings.
Furthermore, he said, the Government believed that minorities were essential components of Iraq's unity and that was why the new permanent Constitution would provide full and effective guarantees for the rights of all of the components of the Iraqi people. The Constitution would serve to strengthen the position of minorities, and ensure that they, too, had a role to play in the recovery and rebuilding of the country. His Government also affirmed that the country did not plan to deprive minorities of their rights or to exclude them in any way, and intended to build upon the efforts now under way in order to strengthen democracy.
However, he added, the Government was unable to bring about such changes without the support of the international community.
AMMAR HIJAZI, the observer for Palestine said that for 57 years, Israel had occupied Palestinian lands. The number of 800,000 Palestinian refugees expelled from their lands decades ago had now grown to 4 million. Israel had enacted and applied laws that denied them their fundamental freedoms and basic human rights, while granting those rights to others based on race or religion. Israel's policies, based on the right of return, gave any Jew the right to citizenship and land, but denied Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homeland.
Further, he said, non-Jewish citizens of Israel were subjected to requirements to maintain Israeli citizenship and prove their worthiness of such citizenship. These practices and policies were in grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Israel had institutionalized in its region South Africa's defunct apartheid system, and continued to reject the applicability of international humanitarian law.
He said Israel's erection of a "colonial wall" in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, further materialized its racist policy of separation and exclusivity. It forcibly stripped Palestinians of their land and property, and then gave that land and property to Jewish Israeli settlers, whose only qualifications were ethnic and religious. Israel's justice system, he added, gave light and suspended sentences to Israeli settlers who had murdered and brutalized Palestinians citizens. Israeli insistence on depriving Palestinians of their right to self-determination must stop, and so should its occupation and ill-treatment of Palestinians.
MOHAMED ELBADRI (Egypt) said the right to self-determination was envisaged as a solid basis of international law and of the United Nations. It was recognized in all international conventions and treaties, as well as by all States that respected human rights, including the right of people to decide their fate in their territory. The right to self-determination encompassed the rights of the individual, and one could enjoy the full range of individual rights only when the right to self-determination was made fully effective. The right also guaranteed to all peoples the right to choose their political systems, as well as their economic, cultural and social systems for themselves.
He said the right to self-determination, to a certain extent, provided the basis for all democratic systems through the liberalization of people. Occupation and colonialism were the natural enemies of democracy, and the international community had, therefore, reaffirmed the importance of the principle within the Charter, international conventions, and texts resulting from international conferences and United Nations summits. The non-recognition of that right or attempts to eliminate or undermine the right were violations of the principle.
The right to self-determination could not be taken for granted. It was, rather, an inalienable right of peoples, which allowed for the perpetration of armed struggle against foreign occupation or colonialism during a people's struggle for their freedom. He said the international community had failed to guarantee the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people; that represented a form of discrimination against those people, who had struggled for decades to create an independent State.
Mr. ABUSIF (Libya) said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the Third Decade to end racism and racial discrimination aimed to strengthen human rights and fundamental freedoms for all -- regardless of gender, culture, ethnicity or racial factors. In recent years, he noted, various international conferences had worked to combat racism, but racism persisted in many countries in various parts of world, particularly against migrants, refugees, indigenous peoples and foreigners.
Many General Assembly resolutions referred to the ill treatment of migrants. Respect for international human rights instruments by countries was mandatory, but human rights violations continued and violators often enjoyed impunity. That was the case for Palestinians in the occupied territories, who were tortured, had their homes destroyed and their sons deported. Despite the demands of the international community, Israel had not implemented and respected international human rights instruments.
He said that since the 11 September 2001 attacks, a campaign had been launched against Islamic countries. Western media had used the defamation of Islam to present a false picture, linking Islam and terrorism. This was contrary to the principle of fundamental freedoms and human rights. Countries were interpreting terrorism in light of their own positions. Terrorist actions had also been aimed at Arab countries. Arabs were subjected to racial discrimination in public life. The international community must respond to this campaign against civilizations and culture. The principle of self-determination must be upheld to ensure economic and social development for all. Tolerance and mutual respect were essential norms and values on which human rights must be based.
ELEYDA GARCÍA-MATOS (Venezuela) said her delegation was grateful for the report presented from Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. She said article 1 of her country's national constitution stated that the republic was free and independent, and that it enshrined individual rights, including the right to self-determination.
Venezuela, she continued, had a multi-ethnic and multicultural society, resulting in great heterogeneity and a rich cultural diversity. The national Constitution had prioritized human rights and the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights for all individuals. As a result, non-discrimination was a fundamental principle in the country. In article 20, all individuals were guaranteed the right to free personal development.
She said her Government had also signed and ratified the Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It was also firmly resolved to prevent any forms of discrimination based on economic inequity. Her country's Constitution was one of the most advanced in the world, she said, because it recognized the rights of indigenous peoples. The Government had identified strategy areas for the development of policies for those peoples, including strengthening their culture, as well as providing support for ethnic development and their political and economic participation.
It had developed micro-indigenous banks that provided financial and non-financial services for indigenous citizens, and was also establishing an indigenous university. In the political sphere, she added, all individuals had the right to express their opinions, and to use any means of communication they saw fit, without being subjected to censorship.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) outlined principles of the right to self-determination which he said must be reaffirmed. The forcible occupation of the territory of peoples whose right of self-determination had been recognized was a clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. The right to self-determination could be exercised freely only if it was done in a manner unfettered by overt and covert coercion or influence. Self-determination could not be freely exercised under foreign military occupation and repression. The right of self-determination could not be extinguished by the passage of time. The legitimacy of the struggle of peoples to self-determination could not be compromised by tarnishing it with the "tarbush of terrorism".
While the principles of equal rights and self-determination had been applied and exercised in most of the modern world, such rights had been prevented in some areas, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir and in Palestine. The April 1948 Security Council resolution declared that "the only way to settle the Kashmir problem peacefully was to demilitarize the State and hold a plebiscite under the United Nations supervision". Subsequent Security Council resolutions established a ceasefire, a peacekeeping mission to ensure its observance, and pronounced that the future status of Jammu and Kashmir would be decided through democratic means of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.
He said Pakistan and India had engaged in dialogue since last year which had led to several confidence-building measures. However, progress to achieve a just and final settlement to the dispute was not yet visible. The international community should play a positive role to enable the people of Jammu and Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination and end their suffering.
WARIF HALABI (Syria) said combating racism and racial discrimination were among the priorities of the United Nations, which had always made special efforts to put an end to those hideous practices in various parts of the world. Since it was founded, the United Nations had focused on the rights of people to self-determination, as well as on decolonization and the elimination of all forms of colonialism and foreign domination.
Racism was one of the most dangerous social evils, she said, because it represented all evils. It was a blind ideology, which went beyond all norms in terms of brutality. Her Government was particularly concerned today to see a worsening of the contemporary forms of racism in the world, particularly against Arabs and Muslims. Arab people and Muslims had been targeted in a racist way, and on a systematic basis, on the pretext of counter-acting terrorism. That could fuel hatred against some groups which, in turn, could undermine all the efforts being made to ensure harmonious relationships between peoples and States.
She said it was an unfortunate phenomenon in the twenty-first century that there were people who were being unjust toward entire peoples, and who rejected the rights of those people to self-determination and freedom, by depriving them also of their human rights. Syria was in a region that was the source of human civilizations and religions, as well as the cradle of civilization, and the Syrian people were convinced of the need to reject all forms of racism. All laws in Syria reasserted the importance of counteracting racism and racial discrimination in all its forms, and punished all those who discriminated on the basis of religion, colour or race. Syria was also an effective party to all international conventions on the elimination of racial discrimination, and the right to self-determination was a sacred right in the country.
While the United Nations had considerable success in ensuring people's right to self-determination and the enjoyment of liberty, she continued, it was, nevertheless, incapable of ensuring that the Palestinian people had the right to self-determination, and that was because of the policies of Israel, through its laws and its rejection of United Nations resolutions. Peace and security in the Middle East, very important for world peace, could be achieved only with an end to the Israeli occupation and by ensuring that the Palestinian people enjoyed their rights to self-determination.
JAYA BACHCHAN (India) said that safeguards had been built into the Indian Constitution and the Indian penal code against dissemination of ideas that promoted disharmony in the country. Furthermore, the instruments of governance in her country were buttressed by the non-governmental sector, which was energetically committed to providing the necessary support for eliminating discrimination.
India had also played a leading role in the struggle for decolonization, she said, and was at the forefront of the movement to secure the right of people to self-determination, so that those under alien subjugation, domination and exploitation could freely determine their own political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Currently, Palestine remained the unfinished task; she reiterated her country's support for the peace process and the Quartet "Road Map". She remarked that countries that attempted to reinvent the basic principles of the Charter for purposes of applying them for narrow political ends should realize that their countries risked being "swept into a vortex" as a result of such reinterpretations.
She said no right, not even the right to self-determination, should be used as an instrument to promote subversion and erode the political cohesion or territorial integrity of Member States. Nor should those rights be used to encourage secession, or be distorted by groups on the basis of ethnicity, religion or race to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a State. The idea that societies must be constituted on homogenous lines through ethnic or religious segregation should not be legitimized.
MOSTAFA ALAEI (Iran) said modern-day racism focused increasingly on differences in culture, nationality and religion, rather than on "race". Racist ideas were spread through media such as the Internet, in addition to being encouraged by policies targeting aboriginals, new immigrants, non-nationals, and ethnic and religious minorities. In particular, he said, acts of discrimination against Muslim populations had increased, through the profaning of cemeteries, attacks on imams, burning of mosques, resistance to the building of mosques in some countries -- particularly in Europe -- as well as the expulsion of imams in those countries, as described by a report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
He said that, regretfully, the new wave of discrimination occurred under the shadow of combating terrorism, owing to the legitimization of hostility towards Islam and its followers. In some countries, such hostility was politically tolerated. To combat such discrimination, it was important to establish trust among people of different religions, cultures and civilizations, and to replace militarism and unilateralism with non-violence and multilateralism. Furthermore, measures to fight terrorism should not result in racial or ethnic profiling or stereotyping. Any tendency to stigmatize, stereotype or profile on the basis of race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin by politicians, officials, educators and the media -- through the Internet and other electronic communications networks -- should be countered.
In a further statement for Iraq, OMER BERZINJI said the right to self-determination was contained in the United Nations Charter. The right determined the position of States in the international scene, and guaranteed the right to economic and social development.
He said Iraq wished to be an active member of the international community and to contribute to its efforts regarding self-determination. Iraq's Government was committed to the principles of the United Nations, including the right of people to ensure the prevalence of peace, security and freedom. It was fighting for the same goals as the United Nations under the aegis of the United Nations. Through its ongoing political process, and working together with the different components of Iraqi society, the Government was also seeking to establish an open Iraqi society where human dignity was respected and where the value of the individual was recognized.
The people of Iraq, he added, needed the support of the international community, as the people for the first time had begun to express themselves after having been held hostage by an authoritative regime which undermined human rights. The Iraqi people understood in full the concept of the right to self-determination, whereby the people themselves were the sole decision takers. For that reason, they required regional and international support in order to combat the terrorist acts of destruction and mass murder that they witnessed, and to get rid of evils. The Government wished to develop a political regime that would serve as a model for all aspects of life, and which could draw on shared national interests, as well as ensure human dignity and lay down adequate conditions to support the political process in the country.
In a further statement on behalf of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, NADYA RASHEED said that during the past year Israeli occupying forces had shown no indication of reducing the harshness of their military occupation. The human rights of Palestinians continued to be violated and gravely breached.
It was imperative to recall that the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004 determined that Israeli settlements and Israel's wall were indeed contrary to international law. Israel was under obligation to cease construction of the wall, to dismantle the structure situated therein, to repeal or render ineffective all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto and ensure reparation for all damage caused by its construction. Regrettably, she said, Israel had been doing exactly the opposite. Construction of the wall and the expansion of illegal settlements deeply impaired the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. The international community must bring an end to the Israeli occupation and its illegal practices and policies.
GREGORI LUKIYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said the countering of racism and its various manifestations was one of the priorities of the United Nations. It was necessary for States to develop a united position of condemning and rejecting racism in order to send a clear signal. One of the basic problems was that there continued to be the appearance of racist tendencies in everyday life at the domestic level. What started at the individual, home level necessarily spread to society, he said. Combating racism and its issues should become a core element in each and every country's policies. It was not enough to denounce racism, and it was necessary to adopt legislative measures that were anti-discriminatory.
The most important task now was to develop a clear strategy for joint efforts to implement the outcome document of the Durban conference, he continued. Among other important elements were the working group of the Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Russian Federation, he said, would continue to fully support the work of the United Nations in the area of racism. He also reiterated his Government's invitation to the Special Rapporteur to visit the Russian Federation in 2006.
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