1 November 2001


Committee Chairman Proposes Postponement of Racism,
Racial Discrimination Issues

NEW YORK, 31 October (UN Headquarters) -- When terrorist attacks were investigated, it was imperative to research whether mercenaries were also involved, the Special Rapporteur on mercenaries told the Third Committee this morning as the panel opened its debate on self-determination.

The Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, told Committee members that mercenaries were often a presence in terrorist attacks. They were also used frequently in battles over self-determination. Mercenaries would also likely be involved in other criminal activities, he said, including actions that could finance attacks. Those people were trained to destroy, and they were void of human sentiment. If the international community wanted to be successful in fighting terrorism, it would have to look into the actions of mercenaries.

One instrument that could be helpful in combating their use, Mr. Ballesteros said during an interactive discussion later in the meeting, was the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. The Convention had been approved by the General Assembly in 1989, but did not come into force until 20 October because not enough countries had acceded to it. Costa Rica became the twenty-second country -- the minimum the Convention needed to come into force -- when it acceded to the treaty on 22 September.

Answering a question from the delegate of Libya, Mr. Ballesteros said an obviously holdup in bringing the Convention into force was finding a palatable definition of mercenary. Although a widely accepted definition had yet to be found, he noted that nine other States were about to ratify the Convention.

Before opening the morning’s meeting, Chairman Fuad Mubarak Al-Hinai (Oman) confirmed that, at the request of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the full report of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance had not yet been published, owing to a fundamental disagreement regarding the deliberations of the Conference itself.

The Chairman therefore proposed that the Committee postpone consideration of items related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination until that report had been issued. In the meantime, he suggested that the Committee instead take up items related to the right of people’s self-determination. He added that the splitting of those items was a result of extraordinary circumstances and did not constitute a precedent He also acknowledged the critical importance of items related to the elimination of racial discrimination to the work of the Committee.

Also prior to today's meeting, several countries, including India, Pakistan and China, asked if splitting the items would affect previously set deadlines, and if the Committee would allow itself enough time to sufficiently address issues surrounding racial discrimination.

Mr. Al-Hinai responded that all deadlines on items not related to discrimination would stand as scheduled, but adjustments would obviously be made for drafts concerning racial discrimination. He added that if necessary, the Committee could give two days to the item beyond 28 November, when it was slated to complete its work.

Participating in this morning's dialogue were the representatives of Libya and Cuba.

The representative of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Egypt and China made statements on the right of self-determination, as did the observer for Palestine.

When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m., it will continue with its discussion of the right to self-determination.


Having thus far considered items related to social development, criminal justice, the advancement of women, child protection issues, and the programme of activities for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to discuss items related to the right of peoples to self-determination and the elimination of racism and racial discrimination.

On the right of peoples to self-determination, the Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination (document A/56/224), which was submitted by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights. The report summarizes the activities of the Special Rapporteur, detailing the implementation of the programme of activities and the correspondence between him and State delegations.

The report also focuses on the first meeting of experts in January, which analysed the evolution of mercenaries, the means employed by them and ways of strengthening the United Nations in pursuing its aim to put an end to mercenary activities throughout the world. Among the numerous conclusions and recommendations offered in the report are suggestions that for more effective action against mercenary activity, it is advisable to determine where mercenaries are involved in criminal activities that violate human rights and the rules of international humanitarian law.

Another proposal contained in the report is a recommendation that the General Assembly reaffirm its full support for the self-determination of African peoples and their right to live in peace; to benefit from development that can result from rational use of natural resources; and to have legitimate stable governments. The report concludes that the General Assembly should condemn mercenary activities frequently organized to undermine the rights of Africans.

[Since the drafting of that report, on 20 September, Costa Rica became the twenty-second State to ratify the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. As a result, the Convention entered into force on 20 October, providing States with a variety of options to better facilitate preventive cooperation, better identify situations involving mercenaries and better facilitate extradition procedures and the effective prosecution and punishment of offenders.]

Also before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General on the Rights of Peoples to Self-Determination (document A/56/295), which shows the replies from governments on the question of self-determination resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression, or occupation. In the report, Cuba, Azerbaijan and Qatar provide responses, making reference to, among other things, the situation in Palestine, and the territory of Guantanomo Bay, which Cuba says the United States is occupying unlawfully.

Several other reports and letters on items related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination are also before the Committee.

The Committee had before it a note by the Secretariat -– the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document A/56/228), which the General Assembly requested be submitted to its fifty-sixth session. It states that the Special Rapporteur will present only an oral report on his activities since the last Assembly session and submit a comprehensive report to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-eighth session, in March 2002.

Another document before the Committee is the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (document A/56/18) which highlights the work of that Committee during the past year. The report notes the preparations for the Durban Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, including regional preparatory meetings.

According to the report, last year, the Committee continued its significant workload, examining over 20 reports of States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which has now been ratified by 158 States. At present only 34 parties have made the optional declaration recognizing the Committee’s competence to receive communications under article 14 of the Convention. As a result, the individual communications procedure is underutilized, as is also the inter-State complaints procedure. [The report was drafted before the convening of the World Conference against Racism.]

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s on the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document A/56/481). That report notes that five regional expert meetings had been held as part of the preparatory process for the Conference. It also highlights the participation of non-governmental organizations in the work of the Conference.

The report goes on to note that the Conference, which opened in Durban, South Africa on 31 August, and ran through Saturday 8 September, provided the first opportunity in the post-apartheid era for the global community to deliberate a broad agenda to combat racism and related issues. World leaders had set as a goal adopting a Declaration and Programme of Action that could be used as a framework by individual countries, governments and their civil society partners to further promote policies of tolerance and further protect citizens from all forms of discrimination.

According to the report, the Conference adopted a Declaration and Programme of Action that committed Member States to undertake a wide range of measures to combat racism and discrimination at the international, regional and national levels. However, a number of delegations had made known their reservations or disassociations on certain issues. The report states that at the Conference's conclusion, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who also served Secretary-General of the Conference, said Durban must be a beginning not an end, and that there must be follow-up. Now the international community had a framework for action that would serve as a blueprint for all nations to promote tolerance and protect all from racism and discrimination.

The report concludes that the most important event during the past eight years of the Third Decade was the Durban Conference. The final report of the Conference should show the path for the remaining two years of the Decade, as well as any future action in the struggle against racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance. To ensure that the recommendations in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action result in concrete achievements and improvements, the full support of all actors is needed.

The Committee had before it a Conference Room Paper containing part II of the report of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document A/CONF.189/12 (Part II)). That document contained general information on the convening of the Conference, including its location and list of participants. It also includes highlights of the Conference’s general debate, as well as reports of the Conference’s negotiating bodies: the Main Committee, the drafting Committee and the Credentials Committee. It also contains a chapter on the adoption of the Conference’s final document and the report of the Conference.

The full report on the outcome of the World Conference against Racism, still being drafted in Geneva, which the Committee was also scheduled to consider, will be issued at a later date.

Letters for the Secretary-General before the Committee included one dated 8 May from the Permanent Representative of Israel (document A/56/71-E/2001/65); another from Israel dated 18 May (document A/56/79); one dated 14 from Syria; and one from the Permanent Representative of Qatar (document A/56/462-S/2001/962).

Statement by Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries

ENRIQUE BERNALES BALLESTEROS, Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said the mandate of the Special Rapporteur also included, among other things, armed conflict, terrorism, covert operations and trafficking in arms. All States were asked to investigate the use of mercenaries in all criminal activities in their countries.

He said a visit to El Salvador was still pending, as was a visit to Panama. Such a visit would allow opinions to be collected and facts to be gathered that could link the use of mercenaries and terrorism. A study would also be carried out about the link of private security forms. There would also be an investigation about the situation in Peru about activities carried out by the former President. In this case, as well as in the case of aggressions against Cuba and the situation in Colombia, the Special Rapporteur observed links between mercenaries and terrorism, particularly through the illegal trafficking of drugs. There was a meeting about private security firms which offered people opportunities to take part in military action. One of the conclusions of that meeting was that there needed to be a further analysis of the legal definition of mercenary. Another meeting would probably be held next year. He said the conclusions and recommendations of the meeting would likely be helpful for the General Assembly.

He said, as in all the reports, there had been a focus on the use of mercenaries in Africa. There was no internal conflict or other problem where mercenaries were not involved. Mercenaries were seen in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, among other places. In the western parts of the countries, which were rich with precious stones and oils, outside interests, including Mafias, had hired mercenaries to enable them to get rich from those resources. The General Assembly and the Security Council had both passed resolutions against that, and those resolutions needed to be respected to protect the people of the region.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September had proved that there was a need for a more effective strategy to tackle terrorism. The presence of mercenaries usually occurred in connection with other criminal activities, and it would be a mistake to discount the use of mercenaries in terrorist attacks. Many attacks resulted from a defamation of religious, cultural or political conflicts. Those people were trained to destroy, and they were devoid of human sentiment. Mercenaries were behind many terrorist attacks, and they were often used to assassinate political leaders. When investigating a terrorist attack, there should always be an investigation into whether mercenaries were involved. If the international community wanted to be successful in fighting terrorism, that should be seriously considered.

Dialogue with Committee

The representative of Libya said the Government associated itself with the elements of the report. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur had special relevance, especially in light of the recent terrorist attacks. He pointed out that the use of mercenaries was closely linked with terrorism, and Libya was looking forward to the next meeting of the Commission on Human Rights for a further update.

Twelve years ago, the Convention had been adopted, and 21 States had acceded to it, he said. Only one more State had to ratify it for the Convention to come into force. Was it possible that the lack of a definition of mercenaries was the reason that other States had not yet acceded to it? It should be pointed out that there were reasons other than religion that could incite people to terrorist acts, including the lack of justice internationally.

The representative of Cuba said his delegation wanted to thank the Special Rapporteur for his work. Despite the questioning of the activities of his work by some Member States, who said there was no link between the work of this Committee and the work of the Commission on Human Rights, he had nonetheless resisted this questioning and held steady, presenting his report every year. As indicated in his report, there was undoubtedly a link between terrorism and the use of mercenaries. It was hoped that the Special Rapporteur could expand further on the new forms and manifestations of the use of mercenaries.

Mr. BALLESTEROS, the Special Rapporteur on mercenaries, replied that Costa Rica actually had acceded to the Convention, and now there were 22 States that were parties to the Convention. There were nine other States who were ready to join as well. However, the delay from the entry into force, which had been approved by the General Assembly in 1989, without question was because of questions in the text. Unlike other conventions, there was no mechanism to monitor the Convention's implementation. It was believed, however, that the new signees represented progress. It had been hoped that the use of mercenaries would have ended with the end of colonization in Africa, but that was not the case. As the Convention came into force, the parties could propose amendments to increase the Convention's effectiveness.

He added that it was not only religious fanatics that led to acts of terrorism. The phenomenon of terrorism had increased throughout the world, and the root cause of all cases should be looked at carefully.

Responding to the comments of Cuba, he said the General Assembly needed to have a legal definition of mercenary. In the first meeting of experts, it was clear that a definition did not appear in previous instruments. The question of who was behind hiring mercenaries also had to be addressed, and included in the definition.

MICHIEL MAERTENS (Belgium), on behalf of the European Union, said the right of peoples to self-determination featured prominently in the main instruments concerning human rights, such as the United Nations Charter or the two International Covenants on civil and political rights, and on economic, social and cultural rights. For that right to be effectively applied, a number of conditions needed to be fulfilled. Freedom of expression and of opinion had to be guaranteed to allow all individuals to debate public affairs and express themselves freely on the choices made by the State. Freedom of conscience and of religion had to be ensured. And the importance of free and independent media became evident here. The opportunity to participate freely and fully in public life was also indispensable for the exercise of that right.

He said a further expression of the right of peoples to self-determination was the holding of free, regular and fair elections, which within the framework of a democratic society, allowed a country's nationals to follow and support the action of the political institutions mandated by them to manage their interests and provide for public welfare. In that respect, each individual had to be able to benefit from the right to assemble with others to defend his or her convictions. With this in view, the European Union reiterated the importance of promoting and reinforcing the proper management of public affairs, democracy and the rule of law throughout the world. The process of democratization was an essential stage in the recognition of the right of peoples to self-determination. For the European Union, respect for that right could not be disassociated from respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual and for fundamental human rights. The obligation to promote and protect that right was, therefore,included in full among the commitments given by States in the field of human rights.

AMR ROSHDY (Egypt) said the right to self-determination was a natural right. Every man was born with an inherent right to self-determination. That fact was stressed in article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stated that all human beings were born free and equal in dignity and rights. Actually, it was fair to say that the right to self-determination was as old as humanity itself. The right to self-determination was among the rights emphasized the most by a wide range of international covenants and treaties. Article 1 of the United Nations Charter stressed, beyond a doubt, that the Organization would pursue the development of friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.

He said all the international covenants and resolutions did not only state a right to be enjoyed by people, but also imposed specific obligations on States, not only in relation to their own people, but vis-à-vis all peoples which had not been able to exercise their right to self-determination. International law affirmed the legitimacy of the struggle of the occupied peoples. Thus, the right of peoples to self-determination necessarily implied the right of peoples to struggle by every means available to them when the possibilities of obtaining recognition of the right to self-determination by peaceful means had been exhausted.

He said the daily suffering of the people of Palestine and the continuing deprivation of their inherent right to self-determination gave a very clear message that humanity was not civilized enough yet. It was beyond comprehension that the international community could allow the daily and pre-meditated killing and displacement of the Palestinian children, women and ageing people. Despite the inherent right of the people to self-determination, the Israeli force of occupation still defied the will of the international community and the provisions and norms of the international law and still pursued its repressive measure against the Palestinian civilians.

XIE BOHUA (China) said there needed to be a quick end to the blood battle between Palestine and Israel, with a recognition of the Palestinian's right to self-determination. That would benefit world peace and development. Israel should immediately cease the use of military force and withdraw from the Palestinian territory. The right to self-determination applied to peoples living under foreign domination and occupation. Those instances should be condemned by the entire world.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said throughout history the world had witnessed many different forms of colonization, subjugation, domination and foreign occupation. Worst among those had been the foreign occupation of the Palestinian Territory since 1967. For more than three decades, the Palestinian people had suffered under the oppressive polices of Israeli occupation, including the denial of their natural and inalienable rights, particularly the right to self-determination. It was regrettable and shameful that, at a time of almost worldwide decolonization, Palestinians continued to be subject to brutal and oppressive measures imposed by an occupying Power.

She said the international community, and particularly the United Nations family, should act swiftly and take concrete measures to ensure that the Palestinian people realize their right to self-determination. Every year that passed in which the Palestinian people did not achieve that right was another year of suffering and degradation. The excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli military had resulted in countless deaths and injuries and the plight of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons continued to deteriorate. Attempts to merely calm the situation on the ground, without addressing the critical issue of self-determination, would continue to fall short of a genuine solution. Palestine remained committed to the peace process and the implementation of all signed agreements.

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