Testimony at the UN

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UN Human Rights Council
26 June 2006

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A Joint NGO Appeal for Human Rights Protection

B’nai B’rith International
Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations
Dzeno Association
Indian Social Institute
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization
International Union of Notaries
S. M. Sehgal Foundation
Transnational Radical Party
UN Watch
Union Internationale des Avocats
World Information Transfer, Inc
Women’s International Zionist Organization
World Union of Progressive Judaism


Mr. President,

This is a joint statement on behalf of 14 NGOs.  The eyes of the world are turned to the new Human Rights Council in the hope that it will effectively protect and promote human rights universally.  Therefore we look to the full implementation of GA Resolution 60/251.

To truly address the reality of human rights violations on the ground the Council cannot shy away from the most relevant situations around the world. In her recent report, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has mentioned the situations of Uzbekistan, Somalia, Sudan, Colombia, Nepal, Togo, Burma and the DPRK. Based on Freedom House’s list of the “Worst of the Worst” violators and our own estimates, the following is a small selection for the Council’s consideration.

In Europe, in Belarus, peaceful demonstrators were arrested for protesting the discredited March elections. The government violates the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association. (HRR)  In Russia, human rights defenders are vulnerable, racist attacks are immune to effective prosecution, and serious human rights violations continue in Chechnya.

In Asia, in Uzbekistan, the crime of the Andijan massacre remains unpunished. Independent journalists and civil society institutions are in peril.  Torture is routine. (HRR)  In Pakistan, violence against women remains a pressing issue, symbolized by the plight of Mukhtaran Mai. In the minority province of Balochistan, security agencies are committing arbitrary arrests and detention, extrajudicial executions, torture and “disappearances” of student and labor union leaders. (AI 2006) In Nepal, recent violence has escalated. The army has committed torture, summary executions, and other gross human rights abuses.  (HRR) 

In North Korea, a dictatorship controls every aspect of political, social, and economic life, holding an estimated 200,000 political prisoners. There is torture and horrific prison conditions.  (HRR)  In East Timor, recent violence is worse than any time since before independence, including torture and extrajudicial killings. (HRR)  In Turkmenistan, there are routine violations of the freedoms of speech, movement, and assembly.  “The new holy book” written by president-for-life Niazov required reading in schools and religious institutions, and the days of the week have been renamed for his relatives. (HRR)

In AfricaLibya imprisons hundreds of individuals for engaging in peaceful political activity. The most well known pressing issue is the situation of 5 Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor on death row under false charges, who have been tortured. (HRW 2006)  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 4 million have been killed since 1998.  Armed groups are killing, raping, and abducting civilians throughout the country.  (HRR)

In Sudan, there have been consistent, widespread reports of atrocities, crimes against humanity, and genocidal acts conducted by the Sudanese government’s Janjaweed militias and the UN Security Council has passed a resolution authorizing a Chapter 7 force. (HRR)  Zimbabwe has committed systematic and widespread human rights violations against the rights to housing and food as well as free and fair elections. (AI 2006 and HRW 2006) In Equatorial Guinea arbitrary detention is a problem, the government is imprisoning scores of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners and lacks a juvenile justice system. (AI 2006)

In the Middle East, in Syria, human rights defenders are threatened. Violence against women continues, with a judicial system that suspends punishment for a rapist if he chooses to marry his victim. Thousands of Syrians, Lebanese and other nationals remain “disappeared.” (AI & HRW 2006)  In Saudi Arabia, religious police discriminate against women in the workplace, home, and the courts, and restrict their freedom of movement and choice of partners. Security services arrest people for practicing Christianity.  (AI 2006)  Iran consistently represses the rights of human rights defenders, political prisoners, and minorities.  Discriminatory laws and practices in particular target ethnic and religious minorities, including Arabs, Azeris, Kurds, Christians and Baha’is. (AI 2006)

In the Western hemisphere, in Cuba, there is the pressing human rights issue of imprisonment of journalists.  Prisons are generally kept in poor and abusive conditions and political prisoners are frequently punished by long periods in isolation cells. (HRW 2006)  Guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and government forces are implicated in gross abuses with impunity in Colombia, which has one of Latin America’s most serious human rights situations and contains one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations.  (HRR)  In Haiti, with almost total impunity, police forces regularly conduct arbitrary arrests, torture, beatings, extrajudicial executions and are involved in drug trafficking and other criminal activity and journalists face threats and violence for their reporting. (HRW 2006)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
(Sources:  AI = Amnesty International; HRW = Human Rights Watch; HRR = various human rights reports.)

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