Human Rights Commission Requests Monitoring of Torture Cases

Article excerpt

The appointment of a Special Rapporteur to monitor alleged cases of torture world-wide was among the highlights of the 1985 session of the Commission on Human Rights, held in Geneva from 4 February to 15 March. The Commission requested its Chairman to appoint to that position "an individual of recognized international standing" after consulting other Bureau members.

(It was announced in Geneva on 22 May that the Chairman, Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, had appointed Professor Peter H. Kooijmans as Special Rapporteur to monitor alleged cases of torture. Professor Kooijmans, a national of the Netherlands, is Professor of International Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Leiden. He was Chairman of the Commission at its 1984 session.)

The 43-member Commission, which provides overall policy guidance for United Nations human rights programmes, adopted a total of 53 resolutions and 14 decisions. Human rights situations in certain countries were among the topics on which action was taken.

Another highlight of the session was the Commission's decision on 8 March to discontinue consideration of the situation in Uruguay under its confidentiality procedure. Prior to the announcement of that decision, a number of Commission members made congratulatory remarks about the rebirth of democracy in that country after 12 years of military dictatorship. The remarks followed a statement by Senator Alberto Zumaran, a member of the Opposition, who spoke in his capacity as a special representative of the new contitutional Government, which had taken office only a week earlier. Senator Zumaran was one of three individuals who had opposed Julio Maria Sanguinetti in the November 1984 presidential elections, in which Mr. Sanguinetti was elected to the country's highest office.

The commission considered progress in drafting a convention on the rights of the child, deciding to continue its work on the subject. Ongoing work on two declarations--concerning rights of minorities and the right to development--was also discussed. The Commission decided to transmit to the General Assembly the report of the Working Group of Governmental Experts on the Right to Development (E/CN.4/1985/11) and other relevant documents so as to enable the Assembly to adopt a declaration on the right to development.

Reports on a wide range of topics including conscientious objection to military service, summary or arbitrary executions, and enforced disappearances were reviewed.

On southern Africa, the Commission rejected categorically the "so called 'new constitution" as null and void, strongly condemend the South African regime for its "brutal repression and indiscirminate torture and killing" of opponents of apartheid, and condemned South Africa for its "military pressures" on front-line States. After discussing the situation in Israeli-occupied Arab territories, the Commission condemend Israel for its policies and practices in those territories, reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to establish "a fully independent and sovereign state of Palestine", and strongly condemned "all the terrorist actions" perpetrated against the Palestinian inhabitants of the occupied territories by "Jewish gangs".

Among other actions, the Commission called on all States to release anyone detained solely for exercising the right to freedom of expression, and urged prohibition of activities of totalitarian groups. It called for assistance to Bolivia and Uganda within the programme of advisory services in the field of human rights.

Torture

By its appointment of a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to torture, the Commission took another concrete step in the United Nations effort to eliminate torture. Moves to expand the world community's action against torture had begun ast year when the Commission transmitted to the General Assembly a draft Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, with a request for urgent action to adopt it. …