Jun 30, 2001

UNPO at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

UNPO General Secretary Erkin Alptekin, accompanied by Cathy Shin, the Secretariat's Conflict Prevention Program Coordinator and Member Services Coordinator Kim Maureen Delvalle, attended the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva from 19 March to 27 April 2001.

Various other UNPO Members also attended on their own account, including Menelaos Tzelios, Francisco Builo and Frieda Souhuwat.A number of important agenda items relating to the political, humanitarian and socio-economic situation of UNPO Members were discussed, including the right to self-determination, the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and indigenous issues.

Mr Oumar Khambiev, Minister of Health in the Chechen government led by President Mashkadov, gave an intervention dealing with the human tragedy in Chechnya, in particular with regard to torture suffered by people under his treatment in Grozny. His intervention was interrupted five times, without any formal reason, by the delegate from the Russian Federation, and finally reduced to silence.

Several interventions were made on the various human rights violations faced by Tibetans under Chinese rule. The persistent human rights crisis in Papua and Acheh was also raised. Kontras Acheh noted that from January to February 2001, the organization has documented 2263 serious human rights violations against civilians including killing, torture, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and violence against women and children.

UNPO Steering Committee member Frieda Souhuwat spoke on the need for the UN and the international community to remove the foreign jihad mercenaries that the Indonesian government is using to cause internal strife and religious disharmony in the South Moluccan community. Also addressed was the economic, social and environmental racism and disproportionate burden borne by indigenous peoples.

UNPO members were represented in several afternoon briefings in which issues were dealt with through more in-depth discussions. General Secretary Erkin Alptekin participated in a panel discussion addressing the human rights situation in China, Tibet, and Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan). Concern was raised on the effectiveness of the UN system and the need to counter strong Chinese lobbying against those raising human rights complaints about China. Amnesty International hosted an informative briefing on disappearances. At the briefing international jurists and human rights activists emphasized the need for an international instrument on disappearances, which is currently being developed by the UN. Among the reports of the special rapporteurs, Mr. Andreas Mavrommatis gave his report from his investigation as special rapporteur on the situation of human rights In Iraq, providing much detailed information on the alleged policy of Arabization of the Kirkuk and other Kurdish areas controlled by the government.

In total the UNCHR adopted 82 resolutions, expressing grave concerns about human rights violations continuing in Myanmar, Iraq, Rwanda, Republic of Chechnya, South-Eastern Europe, and on Indigenous Peoples. The US- initiated resolution on the human rights situation in China failed to pass, largely due to the Chinese economic influence and suggestion that economic repercussions will follow action at the UNCHR. "With this vote, Beijing strengthens its hand. It can continue and intensify its crackdown on basic freedoms, without any consequences for it internationally. It's clear that technical assistance from the UN and bilateral dialogues on human rights are insufficient to address China's massive human rights problems", said Joanna Weschler, Human Rights Watch's UN representative. The resolution was dismissed with 23 votes against, and 17 in favour.

A significant change in next year's membership involves the ousting of the US from the UN Human Rights Commission for the upcoming year. Members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council voted the US off the commission in an election held on May 3, 2001. This has never occurred since 1947.