July 30 - 17 August, 2001
Palais des Nations, Geneva
Franciscans International in collaboration with Dominicans for Justice and Peace wish to express their ongoing concern about the situation of human rights in Mexico and Pakistan and to bring to the attention of the Sub-Commission a massacre witnessed by our people in another country.
We recognize that the recent presidential election in Mexico has re-affirmed the principle of alternation or rotation which is one of the key aspects of democratic societies. We also note that the President-elect of Mexico was quoted as saying that the concept of sovereignty could not be used in the future by Mexico to avoid scrutiny of its human rights record by the international community. Notwithstanding the electoral change, there is ample evidence to demonstrate that there remains long-standing and systemic human rights problems which will require strong remedies and long-term solutions.
We bring to your attention the Chairman's statement on Mexico adopted at the 1999 Session of the Sub-Commission and especially the Mexican government's commitments to take corrective action. Among stated undertakings, the representatives of Mexico indicated that they had invited the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the country, that they would extend invitations to Special Rapporteurs, and they would adopt measures for improving dialogue with indigenous groups. Additionally, the government would implement a human rights strategy and projects for the protection of the rights of indigenous people. A few months following the adoption of the statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Chiapas in Mexico and declared that there was a deep gulf between what the government said it was doing and wanted to do and what was being reported on the ground.
We strongly encourage Mexican authorities to implement fully the commitments they made at United Nations.
We recommend that the Sub-Commission request the Commission on Human Rights to ensure that follow-up is conducted on the commitments made by the government and that it continue to monitor the situation of human rights in Mexico.
We have intervened since 1997 on the situation of religious intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion in Pakistan and we remain especially concerned about the Blasphemy Laws and the Separate Electorate system. The latter is responsible for reinforcing segregation on the basis of religion among the citizens of Pakistan. Under the system, voters are not allowed to vote for candidates other than those of their own religious groups.
The Chief Executive of Pakistan is expected to announce, on August 14, 2000, changes in the present electoral system which religious minorities hope will take into account their demands. For this reason, the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops of Pakisan is presently conducting a campaign for the restoration of the Joint Electorate System. Many groups and organizations are involved in activities to end the discriminatory electoral system, including holding a major convention on the issue and collecting about two hundred thousand signatures from all segments of society.
We therefore recommend that Pakistan abolish the Separate Electorate System and that the Joint Electorate System be restored.
Massacre in Colombia
We wish to bring to the attention of the Sub-Commission a recent massacre in Colombia whose human rights record continues to be one of the gravest in the world. The massacre took place on July 8, 2000 in the small community of Union. A group of armed men wearing army uniforms with balaclavas entered the village and rounded up the people separating the men from the women and children. They then separated the men between 25 and 40 years and six of them were immediately shot on the village green. The armed men then threatened the people telling them that they would return and kill more if they did not abandon their village. The massacre appears to be connected to a policy of clearing lands that have in the past ended up being purchased at bargain prices by transnational companies for oil, fruit farms and mining.