QUESTIONS RAISED IN THIRD COMMITTEE REGARDING
Draft Resolutions Approved on Ageing, Indigenous Peoples
NEW YORK, 8 November (UN Headquarters) -- As an international observer asked for documentation to verify how the Government of the Sudan used its oil revenues, a representative of the Sudan insisted the money was used on development matters and added that the request for evidence was inappropriate.
Responding to the report of Gerhart Baum, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, which was presented to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon as it continued its discussion on human rights questions, a representative of the Sudan said it was not true that, as stated in the report, oil had a negative impact on the human rights situation in the country. His Government was using oil revenues to improve the infrastructure and social services throughout the country, particularly in the south.
He and other country representatives said Mr. Baum's request in the report to see proof of the oil expenditures violated sovereignty and was an unacceptable interference in matters within the jurisdiction of the national Government.
There were, he said, certain groups that waged hate campaigns against the Government, alleging different human rights violations. That was now developing into a fierce campaign to deprive the Sudanese people to make use of their country's natural resources in a way that would hopefully help to eradicate poverty.
But Mr. Baum said the internally displaced persons in the Sudan, now living in camps, had fled from the oil regions of the country. They did not benefit from the money, although the Government used the argument that the revenues were being spent on those people. And since internally displaced persons were part of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, it was appropriate to ask for an explanation of where the money had gone.
In a war situation, such as that in the Sudan, he continued, oil fields attracted attention. The tensions resulted in victims, and people had no other options other than to flee. He had the right to ask the Government, since it claimed to use the money for development purposes.
Earlier in the meeting, Mr. Baum, introducing his report, pointed out that while the human rights situation in the Sudan continued to be a serious concern, efforts toward democratization had been made in 1999 and 2000, and were now in place in 1999 and 2000. While all possible efforts must be made to bring about a peaceful solution between warring parties, he said that, short of a peace settlement, the parties to the conflict must work at reinstating humanitarian cease-fires. Some 80 per cent of southern Sudan was at peace, and more should be done to extend that.
Addressing the Committee on behalf of Roberto Garreton, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was Ms. Maarit Kohonen of the New York
The Committee also approved two draft resolutions this afternoon. By a text on the follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons, the General Assembly would affirm that the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing should give attention to the links between ageing and development, with particular attention to the needs and perspectives of developing countries. The Assembly would also invite the Second World Assembly to address, among other things, the question of abuse and discrimination against older persons.
Also approved today was a draft on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. By that text, the General Assembly would urge all parties to intensify their efforts to achieve the goals of the Decade and would request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to, within existing resources, give due regard to the dissemination of information on the situation, cultures, language rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples.
Participating in the dialogue this afternoon were the representatives of the Sudan, Egypt, Syria, United States, Ethiopia, Libya, Belgium (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Cuba, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Morocco, Chad, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m., to continue its dialogue with Special Rapporteurs on human rights situations in Iraq, Myanmar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
This afternoon, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its consideration of human rights matters in a dialogue with Special Rapporteurs and Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights, including Mr. Gerhart Baum, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan.
Mr. Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, will make a statement on behalf of Mr. Roberto Garreton, who recently resigned his position as Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Committee is also expected to take action on draft resolutions related to the International Year of Older Persons and the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. For details, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3653 of 1 November and 3654 of 5 November.
The Committee was set to consider a note by the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan (document A/56/336), which discusses the status of human rights and humanitarian law in the conflict, focusing on the peace talk, the intensification of military activities, the oil issue, and the issue of abduction of women and children.
The report states that the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD)-led peace negotiations have failed so far to produce the expected results, owing to the stumbling block issues of the relation between religion and State, and self-determination. Regional players have not yet succeeded in reconciling the parties on these two long-standing issues.
Among the conclusions and recommendations contained in the document is a recognition that the human rights situation has worsened further in the past few months, and in view of the circumstances, the United States, in cooperation with the European Union and IGAD, among others, should increase its engagement in the search for a peaceful solution. The conflict threatens to become a "forgotten war" in the eyes of the international community.
The Committee also had before it another note submitting the joint mission report to the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Special Rapporteurs on human rights in that country and on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and a member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (document A/56/220). The report states that in an April 2001 resolution, the Commission on Human Rights recognized that the security situation in that country had not yet allowed such a mission.
The report also notes that the same resolution requested the Secretary-General to give all necessary assistance to the Special Rapporteurs and the joint mission to enable them to discharge their mandates, including investigating all recent murders and other atrocities carried out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as those mentioned in previous reports. The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation was expected to visit the country form 19 July to 2 August and prepare a report for the Assembly.
Another note transmits the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/56/327). The report highlights the mandate and activities of Mr. Roberto Garreton during the past year. It notes that he has transmitted 20 urgent action bulletins, containing information on cases of human rights violations involving 87 victims, to President Kabila's Government. The report also devotes attention to the Lusaka peace process.
According to the report, Mr. Garreton received a reply from the country's Charge d'affairs which gave, not so much a reply, but his personal views on one of the reported cases. Also during the year, Mr. Garreton undertook two visits to the country, from 11 to 21 March and from 20 June to 1 July, respectively. The officials, organizations and Government officials the Special Rapporteur met during his visits are listed in an Annex to the report. One section of the report deals exclusively with the armed conflicts taking place in the country, including between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and the Front de Liberacion du Congo (FLC) and Uganda. It also highlights internal conflicts between the Bahema nuclear disarmament the Balendu in Ituri.
According to the report, while there had been countless violations, borders had generally been respected. The report concluded that overall, the various wars continued to leave a trail of thousands dead and wounded, burnt-out homes, orphans and, especially, poverty in a country with tremendous mineral and agricultural wealth. During time of war, rules of international law were habitually violated, and the region seemed no closer to peace, as foreign occupying troops and Congolese factions that supported them continued to find new pretexts to delay fulfilment of international obligations.
Further to the report, the Special Rapporteur recommends, among other things, that all the parties to the conflict, political parties and key civil society actors should commit themselves fully to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and support the activities of United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). He also recommends that the Government and other public authorities in Kinshasa take urgent steps to restore the rule of law, resolving the current situation of persons currently detained by the Military Court and the international commission to investigate the assassination of the President.
Action on Drafts
Before hearing the statements of the Special Rapportuers, the Committee took action on two draft resolutions on issues concerning older persons and the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
Delegations first approved without a vote a text on Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons (document A/C.3/56/L.6 and L.6 Rev. 1), which had been introduced and orally amended earlier by the representative of Iran on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China. (For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3653 of 1 November).
Explanations of Position
The representative of the United States regretted that his delegation could not co-sponsor the resolution and would disassociate itself from consensus. The draft, he said, contained budget implications concerning the information campaign for the Second World Assembly. The United States believed that the information campaign could be funded from existing resources.
The representative of Australia, speaking on behalf of the CANZ Group, said her delegation was strongly supportive of all efforts and preparations surrounding the convening of the Second World Assembly. However, the reintroduction of the request for the Department of Public Information (DPI) to undertake activities to publicize that meeting had introduced certain budgetary implications that were of concern to the CANZ Group.
The representative of Japan said that while the information campaign described in the text was important to preparatory activities and awareness raising for the Second World Assembly, she was concerned about the budgetary implications. That issue should be carefully examined by the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ)
The Committee next took up a draft on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (document A/C.3/56/L.30) which had been introduced and orally amended by Denmark. That text was approved without a vote. (For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3654 of 5 November).
GERHART BAUM, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, said the situation of human rights in the Sudan continued to be a matter of serious concern, in spite of the efforts toward democratization which were put in place in 1999 and 2000, and which marked a relative improvement in comparison to other countries. Unfortunately, human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law continued to occur -- partly related to the on-going conflict, which featured northerners against southerners, and southerners against southerners, with regular armies and allied militias, frequently shifting alliances, thus contributing to the perpetuation of a climate of insecurity.
There was particular concern at the recurrence of instances of bombing civilians, particularly in the Nuba Mountains and in the Blue Nile State, he said. During the visit of the Special Rapporteur, in early October, there was repeated bombing during a World Food Programme distribution operation. Denial of humanitarian access remained a major problem. The Nuba Mountains and the whole of southern Blue Nile remained inaccessible. There also were reports of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and allied militias, particularly in the oil-rich Western Upper Nile. This led to a situation where people were left with no other option than fleeing.
During his visit to Khartoum, Mr. Baum said he had collected information on the process of transition to democracy. Specifically, there were conversations with a number of Government representatives about security, the recent amendment to the National Security Forces Act and the prolongation of the state of emergency, as well as about the restrictions imposed on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. The path towards democratization that had characterized the year 2000 had been discontinued in 2001. More specifically, the amendments to the National Security Forces Act allowed for an extensive period of detention. Judicial review was weak and not really effective. During a visit last March, while noting there were a number of newspapers in the country, it was noted they could be censured. Preventive censorship took place daily, and journalists were often instructed on how to do their work and summoned by the security forces.
He said he was fully aware that numerous human rights violations in the Sudan were linked to the war. There was great concern at the recurrence of flight denials for those locations where people were most in need of assistance. It was paramount to guarantee humanitarian access, safety and protection of civilians. Unrestricted humanitarian access to the needy population should be ensured. While all possible efforts must be made to bring about a peaceful solution between warring parties, it was understood that short of a peace settlement -- for the sake of the civilian population -- the parties to the conflict must work at reinstating humanitarian cease-fires.
Some 80 per cent of southern Sudan was at peace, and more should be done to extend that, he said. National reconciliation aimed at reaching a just and durable peace settlement should be a priority for both the Government and the SPLM. In this connection, issues relating to sharing of power and wealth should be addressed.
Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur
The representative of the Sudan said the Government reaffirmed its commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was fully committed to working with the Special Rapporteur -- it had invited him, as well as other mandate holders and international NGOs, to take part in an open and transparent conversation. His Government rejected the politicization and double standards of dealing with human rights in the United Nations. There was not a single country that was free of human rights violations in one way or another. His Government was dismayed that a few countries -- all developing countries -- were singled out. Human rights should be a global concern for every part of the world.
The representative said there were many positive aspects singled out in the report. But regarding the concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur in his report, the Government pointed out that their root causes were found in the ongoing conflict in southern Sudan. His Government was ready to renew its acceptance to an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire to put an end to the conflict. Regarding the National Security Forces Act, he said it had been enacted because a terrorist group had taken advantage of the leniency of the old Act and had killed 22 citizens who were praying inside a mosque in Khartoum. Civilian casualties due to bombings were the result of the continuous use by the rebels of civilian premises for military purposes.
He said the Special Rapporteur had shown particular interest in oil exploration. Although the report said oil had a negative impact on the human rights situation in the Sudan, the Government was using oil revenues to improve the infrastructure and social services throughout the country, particularly in the south. Certain groups had waged hate campaigns against the Government, alleging different human rights violations. That was now developing into a fierce campaign to deprive the Sudanese people of making use of their country's natural resources help eradicate poverty.
The representative of Egypt said his Government was convinced that a peaceful settlement would reinforce the promotion and protection of human rights in the Sudan. It was important that any international agreement respect the internal territory of Sudan, and not interfere with its internal affairs.
The delegate of Syria said the Special Rapporteur gave far too many negative details in the report. All aspects should be dealt with equally. There were aspects that interfered with the internal affairs of the Sudan.
The representative of the United States asked what was the status of abducted women and children? How many of these people had been returned to their homes, and what new steps were being taken to stop the abductions? In the report, he noted with concern the negative role of the nomadic Arab tribes from which the militias were formed. Were their practices of killings continuing? What was the role of religion in education in the Sudan?
The delegate of Ethiopia said his Government appreciated the positive measures the Sudan was taking. Peace there meant stability in the entire region. Ethiopia looked forward to working with other delegations to continue these positive developments in the Sudan.
The representative of Libya said her Government provided the Special Rapporteur with some information on the situation there. Sudan was a brother country and had tremendous agricultural potential. The Government of the Sudan had to be applauded for accepting a permanent cease-fire. Libya had examined the report very carefully, and the report never said how the Sudan used its oil income. Did the Special Rapporteur have the right to demand proof from any government? That fell within the purview of the sovereignty of States.
The delegate of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, said the Special Rapporteur’s visit to the southern part of the country allowed the report to contain some very useful information. What kinds of human rights violations took place there? What were the plans for the future visits?
The representative of Cuba said one of his concerns dealt with paragraph 47. Could the Special Rapporteur explain whether he could have surpassed his mandate in making the demand he made in this paragraph? The question of oil was well highlighted in the report, and more sources were needed to support what was requested in paragraph 47. There needed to be evidence before it could be shown that oil revenues were used to violate human rights. It was important for the international community to provide relief for the suffering people of the Sudan.
The delegate from Malaysia said the Sudan extended full cooperation to the Special Rapporteur. The report that resulted was extensive, but the Government of Malaysia did not see how the exploration of oil could worsen the conflict if, as he stated later, those revenues comprised 40 per cent of the Sudan's income.
The representative of the Russian Federation said in paragraph 106, the Special Rapporteur had stated that while oil companies built infrastructure for the location population, oil exploration had a local negative impact on human rights. Could the Special Rapporteur please explain?
The delegate of Morocco said the Sudan should be congratulated for the progress it had made in the process of democratization, despite the conflicts, which infected the country.
The representative of Chad said the Special Rapporteur should be congratulated for his efforts. As a brother and neighbour nation of the Sudan, Chad was convinced that because of the efforts of the Government of the Sudan, the country would again achieve peace and respect for human rights.
The delegate of Iran said it was the duty of the international community to help the Government of the Sudan to cope with the problem and to end the conflict in southern Sudan. That would help guarantee that human rights were respected for all individuals in Sudan. Extremely objectionable to Iran was the linking, in the report, of the exploration for oil and the violation of human rights. Iran believed the demand to see how Sudan spent its oil revenues went beyond his mandate.
Mr. Baum said he had been the leader of the German delegation to the Human Rights Conference in Vienna in 1993. The right to development was a part of all human rights. The Government of the Sudan said it spent its revenues from oil mainly on the south, and that was what needed further clarification. The people in the internally displaced persons camps had fled from the oil regions -- they did not benefit from the oil. In this discussion, the Government had used the argument that it was spending money on those people. Part of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was the internally displaced persons, and that was the reason for the request. In a war situation, the oil fields attract attention. There were tensions and victims, and people had no other option other than to flee. There was a right to ask the Government if it claimed to use the money for development purposes.
He said he would like the Government to answer the individual cases of human rights violations that had been mentioned. The Government of the Sudan lauded the positive aspects of the reports, but it should address the individual human rights violations, including the imprisonment of journalists. There were regions where people were suffering, and humanitarian aid was not possible.
Concerning abductions, the number of abductions had decreased, he said. One cause for that was that SPLM was better prepared to defend the villages. It would be helpful to hear a strong statement from the Government against abductions.
On freedom of religion, Mr. Baum said it was not true, as some Christian fundamentalists argued, that there was a religious war. There was not systematic suppression of Christian churches. There was discrimination. There were other countries in the region where the situation was quite different, however.
He said he tried to be objective. There was so much information, and he welcomed discussions. He was willing to accept criticism, but wanted to stick to the facts in the report.
Opening the second round of questions, the representative of Iran said in no way was his delegation against the Special Rapporteur. He understood that Mr. Baum had a job to do. His question had concerned the legal basis under which Mr. Baum proposed to supervise the development-related expenditures of a national government. How did Mr. Baum’s mandate extend to such a practice?
In response, Mr. Baum said his legal right to make comments on the way a national Government used its resources was based on the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights. He did not want to supervise the budget. He accepted that the Sudanese Government said that oil revenues had been used for a certain cause and had asked for evidence.
The representative of Malaysia said her delegation did not ask that the Sudan cease producing oil. She had merely wanted clarification on a section of the report concerning a meeting with representatives of the Canadian Talisman Oil Company.
The representative of the Sudan said his delegation saw certain aspects of the report as fiction, and evidently the Special Rapporteur considered certain aspects as fact. He said that his Government had requested transparency in the operating procedures of relief agencies in mountain areas. His Government was not against relief work. On the issue of abductions, he said his Government was working hard to counter such activities. It was only trying to examine facts as they were on the ground. Contrary to what the Special Rapporteur stated, there was not much fighting in areas containing oil fields.
In response to those comments, Mr. Baum said the spirited and controversial debate that had taken place this afternoon was for the benefit of the country. He reaffirmed his commitment to those persons living in the country that were suffering human rights violations. He asked rhetorically if any persons had been brought to justice for committing abductions?
Statement on behalf of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ms. Maarit Kohonen, of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the report on behalf of Roberto Garreton, who recently resigned his position as Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ms. Kohonen said the report included the events that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through 1 November, during a time when the Inter-Congolese dialogue had unfortunately been suspended. Since 1998, the country had suffered two wars that had produced thousands of casualties. Those wars had also left a country that was rich in natural resources struggling with widespread poverty. The pillaging of Congolese wealth was financing wealth in other countries. Most shocking were the attacks committed against defenceless rebel factions, including the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) and the Front de liberation du Congo (FLC).
She said that following the assassination of President Laurent Kabila last year, the new President, his son Joseph, had aroused hopes of greater political liberalization. Some of those hopes had been fulfilled, namely a moratorium on the death penalty and increased cooperation with United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). Still more political assassinations, torture and other violations of human rights persisted. Freedom of speech had been seriously compromised and journalists had been repeatedly harassed. In the areas controlled by RCD and FLC rebel factions, lethal attacks against civilians and plundering of natural resources continued. Those rebel actors also refused to abide by Security Council resolutions, particularly those pertaining to the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Ms. Kohonen went on to say the report noted that there had been no improvement in the status of women. Moreover, while the rebel groups insisted they had initiated demobilization strategies, evidence had shown that children were still being recruited for fighting. Recalling several of Mr. Garreton’s recommendations, Ms. Kohonen said the Inter-Congolese dialogue must be reinitiated as soon as possible. The countries that had violated the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must abide by the relevant Security Council resolutions. Those countries must also refrain from exploiting Congolese natural wealth and ensure that plundered resources were returned. She said that the Special Rapporteur hoped that his work had been useful for the Congolese people in their struggle to exercise their human rights.
Dialogue on the Report of the Special Rapporteur
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the present report basically reflected the human rights situation in her country since 2 August 1998, when forces crossed the border into the country. The process seemed to be improving because of efforts made by her Government, although that did not apply to occupied territories. The report recognized that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the victim of armed aggression by its neighbours.
When it came to describing what was happening in the country, she said the Special Rapporteur seemed to have lost a thread. He found it difficult to differentiate between victims and attackers. The Special Rapporteur mentioned facts that were no longer relevant -- actions of the past. Other facts, other atrocities committed against the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo seemed to be swept under the carpet. In the Government controlled part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nobody had been put into prison because of their beliefs.
The representative of Uganda said the delegation would make a detailed statement at a later date. But it was necessary to give a brief response today to the report. It would have been better if the Special Rapporteur had been here himself today. There were factual errors and false statements both in the statement and the report of the Special Rapporteur. The purpose of this was to create unnecessary tension and confusion. The Special Rapporteur took two missions to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and on those missions, he had met President Kabila and two rebel leaders. He was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a total of 24 days. The question was how he spent his time in the country. Could he not find enough time to cross-check his facts? The delegation questioned the credibility of the Special Rapporteur.
The representative of Rwanda said the report contained a great many conclusions that appeared to be based on speculation or personal opinion, particularly that Rwanda had annexed territories in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said that the history of the conflict was well known, and the events had been related in the report to present the worst possible interpretations.
The representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, said that her delegation supported the work of the former Special Rapporteur and hoped that efforts to improve the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would continue.
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