Human Rights


In our last issue, we had quoted the observation made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan that it was important "to deal with the root causes of the problem which (lead ...) to terrorism ... Terrorism could erupt from a feeling that a person is oppressed and has no voice except through terrorism."

Forty-eight years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had declared it to be "essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law."

Over the years, a series of international covenants have addressed specific human rights and have been signed by individual nations as State parties. Committees meet regularly to assess the response of States parties to their commitments under these covenants. In their recent meetings the Human Rights Committee, among other things, observed that terrorism did not justify measures in Peru that contravened human rights standards; the Committee against Torture, in one of its requests, asked Israel for a special report on the use of "moderate physical pressure" by its security forces in interrogation of suspected terrorist, and the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of MInorities, in the course of its deliberations, expressed concern at the consequences of the international economic embargo on Iraq.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights held its fifteenth session (18 November-6 December, Geneva).

The 18-expert panel, charged with monitoring the implementation of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: requested the Dominican Republic, among other things, to honour its obligations through maintaining constructive dialogue with the Committee; urged Portugal to enact a legislation on the right to strike in Macau; called for new legislative and social measures to address HIV/AIDS in Belarus; recommended efforts to ensure equality between men and women with regard to employment and salary matters in Finland; and urged the adoption by the United Kingdom of legislation against age and sex discrimination in Hong Kong.

The Committee also concluded five years of work on a draft optional protocol to the Covenant, under which individuals and organizations from States agreeing to the treaty would be able to send to the Committee any allegations that their economic, social, and cultural rights had been violated.

Completing its two-week session (11-22 November, Geneva) after reviewing reports from six States parties to the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Committee against Torture called for the establishment of an independent committee to look into allegations of torture and other cruel treatment in the conflict between Russian forces and Chechen separatists in the south of the Russian Federation. It urged that allegations of ill-treatment of detainees in the Republic of Korea be fully investigated; expressed concern about allegations against Algeria for acts of torture in its battle against terrorism; recommended urgent measures to halt allegations of torture in Georgia; and expressed approval of proposed criminal and judicial reforms in Poland. It decided to ask Israel to submit a special report on the decision by its Supreme Court to declare lawful the use of "moderate physical pressure" by security forces in interrogating specific suspects of terrorist acts. …

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