Statements by Experts & other NGO's

August 4-29, 1997 Palais de Nations, Geneva

i.) Agenda item 2:  Violation of human rights in all countries

Colombia:

Ms. Forero Ucros (expert from Colombia) stated that Colombia is suffering from a long armed conflict that is keeping the country from achieving its great and human potential. She urged that international humanitarian law must be respected by all those involved in the conflict while the international community must join to reject all practices which did not respect human rights, whoever committed them. The conflict has to be ÒhumanizedÓ so that civil society is protected from its effects and that is an overriding obligation for all.

Ms. Arias-Johner (counselor at the Permanent Mission of Columbia in Geneva) said that Colombia is committed to the defense of human rights to be pursued within the framework of international cooperation. Her government rejects threatening and unilateral sanctions as being contrary to the principles of sovereignty and self-determination. The High Commissioner FieldÕs Office in Bogota has begun operating with the full support of the government, which, on its side, has also initiated actions towards reconciliation. She also stated that the Colombian authorities are fighting paramilitary groups the same way they fight the guerrillas and are discussing a reform of the Military Criminal Code.

Many NGOs maintained that, in Colombia, violence is pervasive and extreme, that peasants are deprived of their lands while wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. They denounced that democratic and judicial channels are closed to most of the population and that armed landownersÕ gangs, paramilitary groups, drug-trafficking forces and government armed forces repress rural and other political movements.

Mexico:

Mr. Joinet (expert from France) pointed out that there is an increasing concern about Mexico especially since human rights defenders are being persecuted and there is an increase in cases of impunity.

Several NGOs raised the issue of the growing militarization of indigenous areas in Mexico, whose repercussions make the situation worse for the people by increasing prostitution, alcoholism, consumption of drugs, AIDS and pollution. They also reported that government threats, arbitrary prosecution, torture of rural human rights advocates, kidnappings and evictions are carried out in Chiapas by paramilitary groups and are beginning to crop up in the State of Guerrero.

Pakistan:

Mr. Akram Sheikh (head of the Pakistani delegation) informed the Sub-Commission that the new government of Prime Minister Sharif has given clear directions to implement his partyÕs manifesto on human rights so that human rights organizations, both local and foreign, can operate without hindrance. Regarding the Shantinagar incident, he pointed out that the Prime Minister ordered the immediate arrest of all those who were involved and adequate compensation for all victims and speedy repair of houses and churches. He also declared that the report of Justice Khan was finally handed over the government .

Agenda item 4: Realization of economic, social and cultural rights

Mr. GuissŽ, (expert from Senegal) Special Rapporteur on the question of impunity of violators of economic, social and cultural rights, declared that economic embargoes appear to be unjustifiable violations in that they almost never harm the dictators and regimes at which they are aimed, but instead cause great damage to innocent and vulnerable people, including children. He also called for States to take preventive measures against violations of economic and related rights and suggested that in the case of economic and other harm caused by former colonization and subjugation of States and peoples, portions of those StatesÕ external debt burdens might be canceled.

Several NGOs raised the issues of the right to clean drinking water and to adequate housing, the violation of human rights through tourism and official development aid.

Agenda item 7: Human Rights of indigenous peoples

Ms. Daes, (expert from Greece) Chairperson of the Working Group on indigenous populations said that, at the request of indigenous participants, the Working Group would consider possible guidelines or codes of conduct for private-sector mining and energy concerns carrying out activities on indigenous lands. She said that the Group had not been able to determine a global definition of Òindigenous peoplesÓ and that there is strong support for the establishment of a permanent forum on indigenous peoples within the United Nations system. She also stated that while some countries have enacted laws to settle land claims; many States have yet to enact the

policies that would give indigenous peoples the right to their land. A final working paper can provide the basis for the identification and analysis of innovative legal procedures and positive measures to be taken by States and indigenous peoples to resolve the land issue.

Ambassador De Icaza (head of the Mexican delegation) said that, in Mexico, there is recognition that it is necessary to strengthen the development and economic well being of indigenous peoples and to provide greater protection for their rights and culture. A national program is being drawn up for the development of the countryÕs indigenous peoples covering a number of fields, namely eradication of poverty, health, education and housing. In the meantime, the government is committed to implementing the San Andres Agreements and believes that the actual mistrust might be overcome only through constructive dialogue.

Agenda item 9: The Administration of justice

Mr. Joinet (expert from France) in presenting his final report on the question of impunity of perpetrators of civil and political rights highlighted the pioneering role played by NGOs in the campaign against impunity. He pointed out that NGOs are aware of the need to back up their efforts with reference to standards drawn from experience and recognized by the international community. He also recommended that the Commission on Human Rights and the ECOSOC should propose to the General Assembly adoption of the set of principles annexed to his report as a broad strategic framework for the fight against impunity. These principles are the result of extensive consultations and the definitions contained therein are designed to be a help to human rights defenders and to serve as a guide for governments.

Ms. Perez Duarte (counselor at the Mexican Permanent Mission in Geneva) stated that Mexico is engaged in strengthening the rule of law, the tribunals and developing the administration of justice in general. These steps are used to fight organized crime and violence and to implement programs of prison reform. Moreover, she added that all Mexican National and State Human Rights Committees agree that cases of torture have diminished during the last years.

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)

Mr. Borel (delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross) stated that it is time for an international treaty unequivocally banning the manufacture, sale, transfer and use of land mines without reservations or loopholes. He informed the Sub-Commisssion that Central America expected to be mine-free by the year 2000 and a similar movement is under way in Africa. He considered that the international community should send a message that land mines can no longer be considered an acceptable weapon of war.

Oral, Written or Summary: