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August 4-29, 1997 Palais de Nations, Geneva

Statement under agenda item 2 Question of human rights violations in all countries

In their statement, Franciscans International and Dominicans  said that in Pakistan the rights of persons belonging to a religious minority were seriously violated in the village of Shantinagar (land of peace) and in Khanewal when in February 1997 a group of militant Muslims attacked two Christian villages causing untold destruction and hardships for the Christians of the region. Churches and houses had been burned and destroyed. The statement recognized that although 90% of the houses and churches had been rebuilt, the government had only provided Rs. 5,000.00 (US$125.00) per family for compensation of their losses. Further the government of Pakistan had not yet made public the report of the Inquiry Commission on the incidents in the villages. In terms of the substantive issues raised, the government has not adopted new policies to protect minorities nor has it made changes to the existing discriminatory laws.

Franciscans International and Dominicans declared their support for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church in Pakistan which has demanded:

  1. that the government of Pakistan abolish the separate election system and repeal all the discriminatory laws, particularly the Blasphemy Laws;
  2. that the government implement all the fundamental rights contained in Part II (art. 8-10) of the Constitution and promote equal rights for all citizens (art. 25 Const.);
  3. that the finding and decisions made by the Inquiry Commission headed by Justice Tanveer Ahmed be made public;
  4. that the role of minorities in the creation and development of Pakistan be publicized and included in school and college textbooks.

Our Sub-Commission statement elicited a reaction from the Pakistani delegation which responded publicly in two statements and then convened a meeting with us and other NGOs where the issues were raised. They agreed to provide us with information concerning the progress of the rehabilitation of the affected villages and some excerpts from the report of the Inquiry Commission headed by Justice Tanveer Ahmed.

Franciscans International and Dominicans also brought to the attention of the Sub-Commission the ongoing situation of human rights violations in Mexico especially in the region of Chiapas.

Reports indicate that there has been a general deterioration in MexicoÕs human rights situation both in terms of political and civil rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. There is a growing concern of an undeclared civil war particularly in the north of Chiapas. Impunity remains a serious issue and paramilitary groups continue to threaten local populations.

Franciscans International and Dominicans declared their support for the recommendations of the BartolomŽ de Las Cas Human Rights Center in Chiapas in which they:

  1. invite civil, national and international organizations and bodies in the task of ensuring the security of all people in the ChÕole region of Chiapas;
  2. call upon the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission to recommend to the International Red Cross Committee to establish a camp for displaced persons in order to meet their needs.
  3. call upon the international community to monitor and follow up the situation in Chiapas and particularly in the northern area.
  4. call on the World Bank to exercise stronger leadership and direction on the economic project which it is supporting in the Chiapas region.

      They also supported the recommendations made by the Franciscan Mission for Peace and Reconciliation in the State of Chiapas which were made in June 1997. These recommendations called for the following:

negotiations be reestablished between the government and the forces of opposition according to the San Andres Agreements;

  1. the State of Chiapas to be immediately demilitarized;
  2. the activities of the paramilitary groups to be brought to an end;
  3. the right of freedom of association be respected in all communities;
  4. the repression and the defamatory campaign against the Catholic Church of San Crisobal de las Casas and its priests be ended.

Franciscans International and Dominicans also requested that the Sub-Commission:

  1. urge the government of Mexico to accept as soon as possible the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions;
  2. ask the UN Commission on Human Rights to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Mexico.

Concerning Mexico, there was a general feeling among NGOs the Sub-Commission experts, with the exception of Mr. Joinet of France, were not ready to undertake any concrete action on the situation of human rights in this country. Following consultations with interested NGOs and local human rights defenders, we considered that Sub-Commission members would not table a draft resolution on Mexico and therefore we concentrated our efforts on developing a joint NGO statement on the human rights situation in Mexico which would be circulated and distributed to the media. The issue is not finished at the UN and we will continue to raise the issue until there is a full debate of the question of human rights violations in Mexico.

Statement under agenda item 4: The realization of the right to development.

      The statement of Franciscans International and Dominicans  indicated the emergence over the past thirty years of a collective conscience in favor of the need to improve the economic situation of the most underdeveloped countries. It said that the realization of the right to development was assured through a number of means including official development aid (ODA) from developed countries to underdeveloped and other countries. FI/OP maintains that the list of guidelines for the harmonization of ODA adopted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the so-called ÒHelsinki PackageÓ were part of an exercise aimed at ensuring that all donor countries should provide loans at similar rates to avoid giving an advantage to one donor country over another. A large portion of ODA funds are provided as Òtied aidÓ, or conditional loans, which ultimately result in an increase of the foreign debt of the receiving country. Another detrimental aspect of Òtied aidÓ was that the goods receiving countries had to

      purchase from donor countries as a condition for obtaining a loan were not always essential for their effective development. On top of that, the majority of developed countries have yet to meet the goal of devoting 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) as aid to the least developed. It was felt also that ODA was being increasingly provided on the basis of commercial, political or strategic criteria.

      Franciscans International and  Dominicans  recommended that the Sub-Commission undertake a study on the impact and realization of ODA within the context of the Decade for the Elimination of Poverty (1997-2006). This would enable the Sub-Commission to undertake the task of reviewing on an annual basis the progress of international cooperation toward the implementation of the right to development in the context of human rights and the Decade.

Statement under agenda item 7: Human rights of indigenous peoples.

The Franciscans International and Dominicans  statement declared that now we better understand that the indigenous conception and way of life is deeply rooted in their relation to land and nature. Therefore land and nature figure prominently in every aspect of the life of indigenous peoples. To speak of the human rights of indigenous peoples, we must take into account land, territory and resource issues.

Historically the rights of indigenous peoples to possession, use and control of land, territory and resources have been constantly neglected and infringed, causing untold injustice and serious and ongoing human rights violations. The distribution of land in a

number of countries has affected indigenous populations in a particular way. For example, landowners in Mexico, as in many countries, kept the best land for themselves and the indigenous populations were pushed to marginal land unsuitable for agricultural production.

Another area of concern relates to development programs and their impact on indigenous peoplesÕ land, territory and resources. In a vast number of regions of the world, indigenous people do not have a role in the planning of development programs which are carried out on their territories. The unjust distribution of land as well as the lack of participation of indigenous peoples in development programs are merely two aspects of a broader issue: the fundamental violation of their rights of ownership, use and control of land and territory. These are at the origin of other injustices and human rights violations. Therefore, as long as their rights to land, territory and resources are not respected, we cannot expect great change in the general human rights situation of indigenous peoples.

Another issue concerns treaties and other agreements which governments do not respect and by doing so violate the rights of indigenous peoples. This is the situation in many parts of the world. For example, the  government of Mexico signed the San Andres Agreements in February 1996 with the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion National (EZLN) which dealt with the rights and the culture of indigenous peoples. Since these agreements were validated by the most representative indigenous organizations in Mexico, they represent a commitment made by the government with all indigenous peoples of Mexico and not only those belonging to the EZLN. The Mexican governmentÕs lack of fulfillment of these Agreements is well-known.

Franciscans International and Dominicans also expressed their deep concern about the situation of militarization of indigenous regions in Mexico especially in the regions of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

Franciscans International and Dominicans  recommended that the Sub-Commission:  

  1. give special attention to the situation of violations of the rights of indigenous peoples regarding ownership, use and control of land, territory and resources;
  2. focus its attention on countries in which development programs are implemented in indigenous peoplesÕ regions without consultation with the communities and without any concern for environmental consequences;
  3. request the Special Rapporteur on Treaties, Conventions and Other Agreements Between the States and the Indigenous Populations, Mr. Alfonso Martinez (expert from Cuba) to include the Mexican case in his final report;
  4. urge the government of Mexico to demilitarize the indigenous regions and to commit itself to guaranteeing that security forces will act with full respect of human rights.

Statement on agenda item 9: The administration of justice and the human rights of detainees (impunity)

Franciscans International and Dominicans stated that references made by the Vienna Declaration and the Human Rights Committee as well as the establishment of ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda indicate the importance of the issue of impunity. However, it is unfortunate that in many countries, like Colombia, the responsible judicial and political authorities fail in their duty by allowing private sectors groups to take responsibility for carrying out their functions thus resulting in legitimizing paramilitary groups. Franciscans International and Dominicans also shared the concern of the Franciscan Peace Mission in Colombia regarding the escalation of the Òfaceless justiceÓ consisting in the use of secret witnesses who have been identified as informants and/or active members of the armed forces. They also expressed concern over the numerous cases of impunity in Rwanda and Burundi and recommended that the Sub-Commission ensure ongoing follow-up and implementation by all member States of the principles and guidelines contained in Mr. JoinetÕs report on the impunity

of perpetrators of civil and political rights as they can lead to peace, reconciliation and an increased respect for human rights.

Statement on agenda item 11: b) ii) International peace and security as an essential condition for the enjoyment of human rights, above all the right to life (ban on anti-personnel land-mines)

The statement of Franciscans International and Dominicans  declared that the world must continue to work together to end the land mines crisis shifting from negotiations and focus instead on making rapid progress under the leadership of concerned governments. An effective treaty should immediately prohibit the use of the mines and provide a timetable for destruction of existing stocks while more resources should be made available for mine clearance and assistance to victims. The socio-environmental aspects of this catastrophe must also be faced as mines keep many people from returning to their homes, reviving agriculture and using energy networks and other vital resources. The statement also urged the Sub-Commission to affirm its support for a total ban on the production, marketing, transfer and use of land mines as a means to protect the right to life and security of persons through the adoption of a resolution on this matter.

Oral, Written or Summary: 
Meeting Year: 


The 49th session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
Meeting Name: 
The 49th session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities