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Commission on Human Rights Expresses Deep Concern Over H. R. Situation in W. Sudan

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Press Release
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN WESTERN SUDAN
Commission on Human Rights
23 April 2004
Decides to Appoint an Independent Expert on Situation of Human Rights in Sudan for One Year

The Commission on Human Rights today expressed deep concern about the human rights situation in the Sudan and in particular in Darfur, western Sudan and decided to appoint an Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan for a period of one year.

In its decision, the Commission said it shared the grave concern of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan concerning the scale of reported human rights abuses and the humanitarian situation in Darfur-Western Sudan and welcomed his decision to send a high-level team to Darfur, at the invitation of the Government of the Sudan, to gain a fuller understanding and to establish the facts of the situation in the area.

The Commission called upon the parties to the conflict in Darfur to observe the humanitarian ceasefire and to grant immediate, full, safe and unhindered access to Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan aimed at delivering humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need and to cooperate closely with the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs and Operation Lifeline Sudan as a further sign of consolidation of the progress already achieved in many regions.

The decision on the Sudan was adopted by a roll-call vote of 50 in favour to one against, with two abstentions after two amendments requested by the United States were defeated by identical roll-call votes of 19 in favour to 26 against, with 8 abstentions.

A motion to defer the further discussion of the situation in the Sudan on the basis of a draft resolution was supported by a roll-call vote of 27 in favour to 7 against, with 19 abstentions.

Also today, the Commission adopted a decision in which it requested the Economic and Social Council to approve six additional meetings for its sixty-first session. And it took note of the draft report of the Commission to the Economic and Social Council.

The Representatives of the following countries spoke today: Congo (on behalf of the African Group), Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), United States, Cuba, Chile, Egypt, Pakistan, Australia, Uganda, Gabon, Brazil, Ukraine, Sudan, Honduras, Germany, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, France, and Japan.

At the end of the day, the Commission concluded its sixtieth session. Its sixty-first session will be held from 14 March to 22 April 2005.

Decision on Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan

The Commission on Human Rights was deeply concerned about the situation in the Sudan and in particular in Darfur-Western Sudan. The Commission welcomed the full involvement of the Commission of the African Union in the peaceful resolution to the conflict in Darfur and called upon the African Union and its Member States to continue their pivotal role in ensuring the effective and speedy implementation of the N’djamena agreement. It also welcomed the visit by the African Union team to the Sudan at the invitation of the Government with a view to assessing the situation and ensuring respect for human rights and humanitarian law, and the positive response of the Government of the Sudan to the request of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to dispatch to Darfur a delegation from the Commission which includes the Commissioner in charge of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The Commission welcomed the ongoing peace talks at Naivasha, Kenya, aiming at the conclusion of a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement and expressed its firm belief that human rights should be an integral part of such an agreement. The Commission also expressed its firm belief that a peaceful settlement to the conflict in the Sudan, which was a responsibility of all parties to the peace talks, would greatly contribute to respect for human rights in the Sudan.

The Commission shared the grave concern of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, concerning the scale of reported human rights abuses and the humanitarian situation in Darfur-Western Sudan and welcomed his decision to send a high-level team to Darfur, at the invitation of the Government of the Sudan, to gain a fuller understanding and to establish the facts of the situation in the area. The Commission called on all parties to the N’djamena ceasefire agreement to fully respect the agreement and to ensure that all armed groups under their control comply with the agreement.

The Commission called upon the parties to the conflict in Darfur to observe the humanitarian ceasefire and to grant immediate, full, safe and unhindered access to Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan aimed at delivering humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need and to cooperate closely with the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs and Operation Lifeline Sudan as a further sign of consolidation of the progress already achieved in many regions.

The Commission expressed its solidarity with the Sudan in overcoming the current situation, and called upon the international community to continue providing relief assistance to the affected population in Darfur and to enhance the efforts of the Government of the Sudan, supported by the African Union, in the peace process. It called upon the Government of the Sudan to actively promote and protect human rights and international humanitarian law throughout the country; the Commission also called on the international community to expand its support for these activities and to continue its support for the peace process in the Sudan.

The Commission requested the Chairman of the Commission to appoint an Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan for a period of one year and requested him/her to submit an interim report to the General Assembly at its fifty-ninth session and to report to the Commission at its sixty-first session on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. The Commission requested the Secretary-General to provide all necessary assistance to the Independent Expert to enable him/her to fully discharge his/her mandate.

In favour (50):Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.

Against (1): United States.

Abstentions (2): Australia and Ukraine.

Comments on Situation in Sudan Before Adoption of Decision

ROGER JULIEN MENGA (Republic of Congo), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that he wished to propose that the draft Chairperson’s statement on the human rights situation in the Sudan become a draft decision before the Commission. The African Group remained concerned by the events in that country and had, in good faith and with all interested parties including the European Union, preceded with negotiations. Yesterday, those negotiations had been on the brink of consensus. However, it was to be regretted that the consensus had not emerged. The African Group remained extremely concerned by the human rights situation in the Sudan and the draft text would reflect all the efforts possible that had been made.

MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was committed to the ideals of the United Nations. It believed in taking practical measures to protect and promote human rights. The European Union tried to get consensus on the draft resolution through a series of consultations. It was concerned over the human rights situation in Darfur, Sudan. It was also deeply concerned about human rights in the rest of Sudan, particularly with regard to women and girls. The appointment of an independent mechanism would be appropriate to elucidate the situation in the Sudan. She hoped that the African Group would support the adoption of the text on the Sudan.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said all that was necessary for evil to prevail was for good men and women to fail to act. The past 50 years since the Second World War had seen ethnic cleansing and a successful Commission resolution should condemn ethnic cleansing, and condemn those who were perpetrating it. The resolution should call upon the Sudanese Government to stop the events. Ten years from now, the Commission would only be remembered for what it did. Although it could not stop the carnage, it could however stand tall and strong to condemn the activity, and this was what it should do. The United States asked for a delay to consider the draft in the new context. The issue on the table ought not be consensus in the Commission, it ought not be getting agreement on a resolution, it ought to be how to act strongly and effectively for those who were being targeted racially and ethnically in the Sudan. There were now 30,000 dead, 900,000 displaced and the Government, until there was pressure, had failed to give a humanitarian decision. It was a time of decision, a time of conscience, a time to stand.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said the delegation had had a chance to examine the text, and had two amendments that would make the draft text conform to the criteria laid out that morning. This had been circulated, and thus did not need to be read out loud. It was vital for the United Nations to act on this issue.

ROGER JULIEN MENGA (Republic of Congo) said in a general comment on behalf of the African Group that the Group had examined the amendments proposed to the Chairperson’s decision and found that they did not figure in the right place at the current phase of negotiations as they concerned things yet to happen. They constituted a sort of pre-emptive judgment and were completely rejected.

MARIA DEL CARMEN HERRERA CASEIRO (Cuba) said in a general comment that the delegation wished to acknowledge the negotiating efforts made by the African Group and its flexibility as well as that of the delegation of the Sudan with a view to finding a solution for the draft decision. The cooperation of the Government of the Sudan in an attempt to solve the situation was applauded. The fact was that what appeared to be a consensus was then faced by an obstacle put by one delegation, preventing an agreed solution to this draft, and this was deeply deplored. For this reason Cuba also rejected the amendments.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said in a general comment that the United States was pleased to introduce the original language, which was maintained by the European Union. The United States was concerned about the people suffering on the ground. He requested a vote on the two amendments which his delegation had tabled to the Chairman’s proposed decision.

JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said in a general comment that there was deep sorrow that at this stage, just a few minutes before completing the important session of the Commission, there was an impasse which would not necessarily be settled by a vote. The truth was that there was a tragic problem in the Sudan. There had been goodwill in the Commission from many delegations in order to reach a good understanding on the issue. The worst thing to happen would be that the Commission did not take note of the grave problem in the Sudan, and only with the goal of contributing towards coming up with a proper solution, Chile would abstain.

MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said that she remained ready to adopt by consensus the text put forward by Congo. Yet, the Union would support the amendments proposed by the United States as they represented language drafted by the European Union itself. However, it was noteworthy that those unable to join the consensus had no language of their own to put forward. Finally, it was to be regretted that the consensus was in danger.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said in a general comment that her delegation endorsed the position expressed by the African Group, and it would vote against the amendments presented by the United States delegation.

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan) said in a general comment that there was a team in the Sudan to examine the situation there, and it had been expected that the Commission would wait for the return or the report of the team before making the statements included in the proposed amendments by the United States. Pakistan was bewildered - the nature of the document was unclear. It had originally been negotiated between the African Union and the European Union, and yet the European Union would vote in favour of the amendments. Could the Chairperson explain what was happening, he asked.

PETER MAXWELL HEYWARD (Australia) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that it supported the amendments of the United States, being gravely concerned at the reports of systematic violations against civilians in Darfur. The statements made by the Secretary-General were supported, and the Government of the Sudan was called upon to sustain its commitments to the promotion and protection human rights, ensuring all attacks on civilians were stopped immediately, to allow safe access to humanitarian workers, and to respect the ceasefire. The document proposed did not reflect the strong gravity of the situation. The Commission should create a new mechanism for the situation, and Australia would support it fully. However, the text did not adequately support the concerns of Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland as well as Australia, who supported the statement and the decision to abstain.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that she wished to express gratitude for the efforts made during the negotiations of the text. Denunciations were not the proper way to deal with human rights situations; there was usually no improvement in the situation of human rights following the adoption of country-specific resolutions. Africa must be allowed to have its own mechanisms to reach respect for human rights, if the international community wanted results that did not complicate issues more than they assisted them. The Sudan was going through a difficult stage in its history, but it did want to achieve development for all of its citizens. The investigating team on the ground in the Sudan had been welcomed by the Government, which was cooperating with it. It was remarkable that while the Government of the Sudan had cooperated with that team, the United Nations was not reciprocating the cooperation demonstrated. Her delegation favoured dialogue for the improvement of human rights situations and would vote in favour of the text.

Comment on Situation in Sudan After Adoption of the Decision

JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said in an explanation of the vote after the vote that his delegation enthusiastically voted in favour of the amendments. From the outset, his delegation had supported the draft, and in any manner did not attempt to weaken it. Chile had full trust in the Independent Expert.

WILLIAM G. NAGGAGA (Uganda) said in an explanation of the vote after the vote that Uganda had been part and parcel of the negotiations on the draft decision, and did not support the proposals by the United States. Uganda was in full support of the draft decision.

YOLANDE BIKE (Gabon) said in an explanation of the vote after the vote that her delegation wished to express its profound disappointment and regret that on the issue of the human rights situation in the Sudan, the Commission had been unable to take a decision by consensus. Her own country had been involved in recent years in negotiations in a variety of African countries to foster the return of peace. For that reason, Gabon had paid close attention to the negotiating efforts of all the parties and the goodwill demonstrated by the Government of the Sudan. It was to be hoped that the international attention and follow-up would help speed up the return of peace and stability to the Sudan.

CARLOS ANTONIO DA ROCHA PARANHOS (Brazil) said in an explanation of the vote after the vote that Brazil had voted in favour of the decision on the Sudan, based on its understanding that it was well-balanced and contained measures that could contribute towards peace in that country. Brazil was following the process of negotiations closely, with the hope that the conflict would soon be overcome.

VOLODYMYR BELASHOV (Ukraine) said in an explanation of the vote after the vote that his delegation was seriously concerned about developments in the Sudan, and regretted that such incidents had taken place on a large scale. The Commission should not make hasty conclusions before receiving ample and reliable information from the ground. That was why his delegation abstained in the vote.

ILHAM SHANTER (Sudan) said that his delegation had cooperated and shown transparency in its engagement with all delegations, convinced that the situation in Darfur required the understanding of the entire international community and its assistance. He wished to reaffirm that his Government would treat the decision just adopted by the Commission with great seriousness and diligence. Having listened without surprise to the statements and proposals of the United States, he concluded that they had consisted only of accusations and exaggerations. Citing a rumour that had circulated throughout the Commission, he explicitly denied that the team sent by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had been denied access to the Darfur region. The delegation was presently in the Sudan, as could be confirmed by the acting High Commissioner. As for the figures of victims cited by the United States delegation, the United States must have used sources of which only it was aware. Such information was not available to the Commission.

Action on Draft Resolution on Violation of Human Rights in Any Part of the World

Following a move to apply Rule 49 of the Commission on Human Rights’ Rules of Procedure, approved by a roll-call vote of 27 in favour and seven opposed, with nineteen abstentions, the Commission adjourned its consideration of the situation of human rights in Sudan and L36 in the context of the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world.

In favour (27): Bahrain, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Against (7): Australia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and United States.

Abstentions (19): Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said despite the action on the decision just made, L36 should be considered, and voted upon. The horrific events in Darfur demanded strong action. Some 30,000 people had been killed, and 900,000 had been displaced, and a terrible famine would follow in which tens of thousands would perish. Today the British Broadcasting Corporation had broadcast credible reports of continuing attacks and civilians killed since the ceasefire began. The United States’ Government would call for a special session of the Commission when the mission returned from there. The work was not done, it was just beginning, and the world needed to keep faith with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and speak for the victims. It was the report of the High Commissioner that had spoken of the different types of violations going on, and so far the Commission had failed to meet its responsibilities.

ROGER JULIEN MENGA (Republic of Congo), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that at the current stage, he requested the adjournment of the discussion on the human rights situation in the Sudan, under Rule 49 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.

AMR ROUSHDY (Egypt), speaking in favour of the motion to adjourn, said that Egypt supported the position of the Republic of Congo.

BENJAMIN ZAPATA (Honduras), speaking in opposition to the move to adjourn, said that the victims of human rights violations in the Sudan would not benefit from the rules of procedure of the Commission on Human Rights and that the Commission should be heard to speak out on their behalf.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States), speaking in opposition of the adjournment, said that the Commission had been engaged in many serious discussions on serious topics over the course of the present session. Unfortunately most of the discussion today had been procedural and it would be a sad comment if the Commission neglected to have a substantive discussion on a situation which the Secretary-General himself had described as "ethnic cleansing."

IVAN MORA GODOY (Cuba), speaking in support of the motion to adjourn, said that he supported the proposal by the Republic of Congo on behalf of the African Group.

Statements at the End of the Consideration of the Agenda Item on the Violation of Human Rights in Any Part of the World

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said that it had already clearly expressed its position on the selective approach adopted by the Commission which preferred to accuse some countries without reference to success achieved on a regional and national level with the promotion and protection of human rights. This approach led to negativity, and impeded the aims of the Commission; it impeded its work and was bad for its reputation. This negative approach would not lead to any positive developments for the promotion and protection of human rights in any of the countries involved. This could not continue. There was a need for specific criteria agreed between members and based on cooperation and support for human rights, focusing on capacity building so countries could provide for the welfare of their inhabitants.

MICHAEL STEINER (Germany) said his delegation was alarmed about the situation in Darfur. Only today, the international community had learned that a massacre had taken place on the ground. The world should be careful and should prevent a large-scale massacre from taking place similar to that of Rwanda. Access to Darfur should be unhindered and free.

CARLOS ANTONIO DA ROCHA PARANHOS (Brazil), speaking also on behalf of Argentina and Paraguay whose delegations had all decided to abstain from the vote on the draft resolution L13 on Cuba, said this resolution did not make a genuine contribution to improving the human rights situation in Cuba. The three countries reaffirmed their unreserved respect for the principles and institutions of democracy, the state of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The three wished to emphasise their full support for the universal system for the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular for the actions of the Commission in order to contribute to improving the human rights situation in the world, and reaffirmed the importance of all States guaranteeing full implementation of all human rights in conformity with the commitment entered into in 1953. In this sense, in the ongoing dialogue with the Cuban Government, the three would be emphasizing the importance of full compliance with these principles.

BIODUN OWOSENI (Nigeria) said Nigeria’s position on the various country-specific resolutions conducted under agenda item 9 was underscored by the conviction that for the Commission to maintain its credibility and respect, members should avoid politicisation, selectivity and naming and shaming of a few targeted countries, all in the developing world. Sadly, on most of the draft resolutions, double standards had been witnessed, with obvious ulterior political motives and unfair pressure which did not help the situations in those countries being targeted. Strangely enough, no human rights violations in the sponsoring countries were being mentioned for censorship, in spite of what other countries knew about violations. It was thus obvious that Nigeria could not accept such biased, holier-than-thou prescriptions contained in those resolutions, which did not respect objectivity and thus evidently undermined the basis of the common goals of the Commission, which should be given every assistance to continue to discharge its obligations to the international community by focusing more on globalized human rights violations, irrespective of whose ox was gored.

SYLVESTER ROWE (Sierra Leone) said that his delegation had been saddened by the division witnessed in the Commission over the tragic situation in the Sudan, and the fact that it had been necessary to vote. However, the Commission had succeeded in bringing the issue to the attention of the international community, however "weak" the language used. The Commission was not the Security Council. It had fulfilled its responsibility due to the cooperation witnessed between the European Union and the African Group. The decision was good enough for the Commission, which was only a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council.

NICHOLAS THORNE (United Kingdom) said that his delegation abstained on the motion to defer the discussion on the Sudan, but not because it was not concerned. The United Kingdom would be willing to help the Sudan in its efforts to resolve the problem. The delegation supported the two amendments presented by the United States. He hoped that the matter of appointing of a special mechanism would be raised by the Economic and Social Council.

BERNARD KESSEDJIAN (France) said that his country shared in the serious concerns expressed with regard to the human rights situation in the Sudan, and in the Darfur region in particular. France would have wished for consensus in order to establish an effective monitoring and follow-up mechanism. However, France now felt it necessary to call upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government of the Sudan to do all possible in the field to improve the situation of human rights.

Action on Measure Under Organization of Work of Session

In a measure, adopted by consensus, the Commission decided to recommend to the Economic and Social Council that it authorize six fully serviced additional meetings for the sixty-first session of the Commission.

HIDENOBU SOBASHIMA (Japan), speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom and the United States, said that concern remained over the implications of the decision to be made. Therefore, he requested clarification of the number of additional meetings envisaged. He also noted that during the present session there had been six additional meetings during the lunch break, while two regularly scheduled sessions had been cancelled. However, even in the event of cancellation, scheduled meetings continued to have to be paid for. Therefore, the number of additional meetings and the cancellation of regularly scheduled meetings should be better regulated.

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan) said it was hoped that the sixty-first session would be able to finish its work with no additional meetings, but the current session had created several new procedures, including Special Rapporteurs who would need to have an inter-active dialogue, thus increasing the work of the Commission with no additional time. The Secretariat needed to inform the Commission how many new procedures had been created.

HIDENOBU SOBASHIMA (Japan) said there was concern on the increase of the United Nations’ regular budget without prioritisation of activities, and that under these circumstances there was a need for further funds for new activities. Efforts should be redoubled to conclude the session within schedule. This proposal was a contingency which should be used only as needed. For this reason and with this understanding, Japan would not block the consensus, and hoped the next Chairperson would be as efficient as the current one.

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