United Nations Press Release

Commission on Human Rights
57th session
29 March 2001
Evening and Night

Commission on Human Rights Continues Discussion of Question of Violations Anywhere in World

The High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteurs and Representatives gave summations this evening of situations in Chechnya, Iran, the Former Yugoslavia, Burundi, Rwanda and Iraq as the Commission on Human Rights carried on with its annual debate on the question of the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms anywhere in the world.

The agenda item, annually one of the Commission’s most contentious, also was addressed by a long series of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during the extended meeting which concluded at midnight.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, introducing a report on the state of affairs in Chechnya, said, among other things, that she was concerned about the problem of impunity, about the economic, social and cultural rights of Chechens, and about the fact that there had as yet been no significant return of displaced persons.

A Representative of the Russian Federation said the Government was aware of existing problems and decisions were being taken to solve them, but meanwhile the rebels were continuing their terrorist activities and it would be naive to think that such difficult problems could be tackled easily and without any excesses and errors.

Maurice Copithorne, Special Representative on the situation of human rights in Iran, said among other things that he was concerned about recent problems regarding freedom of expression, prosecution of journalists, and activities of the country’s Revolutionary Courts and the Special Clerical Courts.

TINA JOHANNESEN, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said recently the attorney general of India had said that caste-based discrimination in India persisted and was pervasive and that strong, effective measures were needed to stamp it out. The admission of the evil nature of caste was not new. In any form of discrimination, be it slavery or apartheid, the liberation of the victims rested with the opportunities provided to them to participate in their own empowerment. The most important aspect of any form of empowerment was freedom of speech, by which victims could describe their experiences. Like every other case of discrimination. silencing the victim was the worst aspect as it deprived the victim of the capacity to escape from his oppression.

On 25 October 2000, 26 Tamil people from a rehabilitation detention centre had been brutally massacred in Sri Lanka in the early hours. Despite an early attempt to portray this as the spontaneous act of a mob, it was later revealed that it was a well-planned act done for some political purpose. The National Human Rights Commission found that about 60 armed police officers present at the site of the crime had done nothing to prevent the massacre, and even had shot twice at the detainees. This massacre was clearly a crime against humanity. In Cambodia, the killing of alleged criminals by vigilantes on the streets had become a frequent practice. From June to December 2000, there were 10 such killings around Phnom Penh. These incidents were not accidental, but the product of a legal system that had proved itself incapable of dispensing justice objectively and a police force willing to incite violence as a rough substitute for the dispensation of legal justice.

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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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