11 November 2003



Issues Related to Migrants, Cambodia also Discussed

NEW YORK, 10 November (UN Headquarters) -- Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, stressed the intrinsic link between human rights promotion, poverty eradication and development, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its review of approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights as well as specific human rights situations.  The Committee also heard from the Special Representative on human rights in Cambodia and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.

Were it not for a heinous act of terrorism in Baghdad, Sergio Vieira de Mello would have presented the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Ramcharan noted with regret.  The report was premised on the fact that the protection of human rights was essential for humankind, as well as the future of the United Nations.  Human rights meant all human rights -- economic, social, cultural and political and civil rights -- as well as the right to development, he said.  Without development, there could be no universal realization of human rights, and without universal human rights, development would be unattainable. 

Presenting a report on human rights in Cambodia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, said Cambodia was plagued by four basic evils -- poverty, violence, corruption and lawlessness.  Cambodians needed a truly democratic regime based on the rule of law and respect for human rights; equal access to justice, health care and education; and a trustworthy public service.  The Khmer Rouge trial was overdue, and he hoped the agreement signed with the United Nations last June would be speedily ratified and implemented.  The people of Cambodia needed the solidarity of the international community in their struggle for democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Responding to the Special Representative, the representative of Cambodia said that Cambodia was currently overcoming a legacy of more than two decades of warfare, violence and destruction throughout the country.  The report of the Special Representative only portrayed a negative image of the situation of human rights in Cambodia, while ignoring the great efforts accomplished by the Government in terms of socio-economic development -- showing the bias of the Special Representative against the Government and people of Cambodia.

Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, said that, despite progress, she continued to receive reports of the violation of human rights of migrants.  She stressed that the international community and States could no longer ignore the situation of human rights of migrants, including the special situations that occurred as a result of irregular migratory flows.  Migratory policies often ignored the medical, psychological and legal needs of migrants, and that women migrants were particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. 

States also needed to improve the access of migrants to public health services, she continued.  Particular attention needed to be paid to migrants in detention, since they often suffered circumstances that were often ignored, such as being minors, unaccompanied or victims of transnational organized crime.

In a subsequent question-and-answer session, speakers from host and transit countries and countries of origin stated their concerns regarding to the human rights of migrants.  Questions were raised about illegal migrants abusing the institution of asylum and policies for the orderly return of illegal migrants to their countries of origin.  The importance of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was stressed, and questions were asked about the detention of migrants and whether the regular or irregular nature of migration should affect the rights of migrant individuals.

Also addressing the Commission today was the Chairperson of the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on Human Rights, Najat Al-Hajjaji of Libya, who presented a brief overview of the session, its achievements and challenges.  She said a new working group would meet in 2004 to consider a possible optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  The Commission had also endorsed decisions of the subcommission to convene annually a social forum, and to commence new studies, including on human rights and small arms and discrimination in the criminal justice system. 

Reform of the working method of the Commission was needed, however, she said.  Such reform must address the level of politicization in the Commission, the length and periodicity of its resolution, the Commission’s agenda, the role of non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, the role of special procedures, the use of limited resources, and the question of country-specific work.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Mozambique, Iran, Japan, Ukraine, Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market, MERCOSUR), Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, and Canada.   

The Committee will reconvene tomorrow, at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of alternative approaches to the promotion of human rights, human rights situations, as well as reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.

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