13 November 2003


Draft Resolutions Introduced on Refugee Issues,

Torture, Migrants, Human Rights Conventions, Israeli Children

NEW YORK, 12 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) focused on the human rights situations in Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Iraq and in the Palestinian territories.  It also considered the right to health, as Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights presented their reports today. 

Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said his November visit to Myanmar had revealed significant setbacks in the human rights situation there. Interviews with victims and eyewitnesses showed that the incident in Depayin, in May 2003, could not have happened without the connivance of State agents. Calling for the immediate release of all those detained or in house arrest, he said discussion with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had made clear that she would not accept freedom for herself until all those arrested had been released.

In response, the representative of Myanmar said people that had clashed with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s motorcade in the incident underpinning much of Mr. Pinheiro’s report were not government supporters. Had she travelled with proper security arrangements, the incident would have been avoided, he said. In order to prevent further skirmishes, the Government had placed her group in protective custody and had taken legal action against those involved in the incident. 

Julia Motoc, Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said there had been progress in the country, as there was a new spirit of cooperation within the Government and a genuine desire for reconstruction. However, violent confrontations persisted, including cannibalism and brutal killings. She urged all parties to the conflict to end military activities and respect the rights of women and children. The Government was also urged to reform its judicial system and to do away with the death penalty and irregular prisons. 

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said he appreciated the balanced report.  Regarding recommendations for the Government to take measures to put an end to impunity by reforming the judiciary, he pointed out that the Special Rapporteur had only visited remote areas where human tragedies and human rights violations were taking place.

John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, stressed the illegality of Israeli settlements and the wall presently being constructed by Israel, and said they had serious consequences for human rights.  He noted that about half a million Palestinians in 136 communities would be affected by the wall and that already 40 per cent of the West Bank was effectively under the control of settlements.

By placing the entire blame for the hardships facing Palestinians on Israel, the Special Rapporteur had absolved the Palestinian terrorists’ corrupt leadership, and those Arab States that deliberately sought to fund and enflame terrorism in the region, said the representative of Israel.  The report was clearly part of the problem and not the solution.  

Introducing her report on Burundi, Marie-Therese Aissata Keita-Bocoum, Special Rapporteur, said that despite progress -- the change of power in May, legislative reforms, the approval and consideration of provisions under the Arusha agreement -- much remained to be done.  Unfortunately, arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, killings and sexual violence persisted and presented obstacles to peace, as well as to the respect for human rights.  She urged all parties to the conflict to respect the right to life and international humanitarian law. 

The representative of Burundi said his country was still in a situation of war and suffered from abject poverty and that the respect for human rights was precarious.  However, progress had been made over the last few months in negotiations with the rebel groups, leading to two complementary accords on power sharing. 

The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt, said he had addressed the right to health indicators needed to monitor the progressive realization of the right to health.  He noted that neglected diseases --- those suffered by the poorest people in the poorest countries -- attracted very little research and development.  Only 10 per cent of health research and development was directed to the health burden of 90 per cent of the world’s population.  He intended to address that situation within his mandate.

Having been unable to visit Iraq due to the security situation, Andreas Mavrommatis, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, explained his examination of new evidence of past human rights violations had not been possible.  When able to visit the country, he would address human rights violations, including the fate of the missing, summary executions and mass graves, torture, prison conditions, religious freedom, “Arabization” and the gender perspective. 

Drafts were also introduced on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/C.3/58/L.37/Rev.1); assistance to unaccompanied minors (document A/C.3/58/L.38); and follow-up to the regional Conference to Address the Problems of Refugees, Displaced Persons, Other Forms of Involuntary Displacement and Returnees in the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (document A/C.3/58/L.43) by the representatives of the Sudan and the Russian Federation, respectively. 

The representative of Denmark, Sweden, Mexico and Israel introduced drafts on torture (document A/C.3/58/L.42), international covenants on human rights (document A/C.3/58/L.44), the International Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers (document A/C.3/58/L.45), and the situation of and assistance to Israeli children (document A/C.3/58/L.30/Rev.1). 

The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to take action on several draft resolutions, continue its considerations of human rights and hear from more Special Rapporteurs. 


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