Ambassador Munir Akram permanent representative of Pakistan, Coordinator of the OIC Working Group on Human Rights in Geneva, on behalf of the OIC, at the 56th Session of the Commission on Human Rights, on Item 3, “Organization of the Work of the Session”
Geneva, 21 March 2000
On behalf of the OIC member States, I would like to congratulate you and members of your Bureau on your election.
2. The OIC member States take particular interest in the work of the Commission. Islam is a religion of peace. We believe the Commission on Human Rights and the work we do in the promotion and protection of human rights should be imbibed with the principles of respect and tolerance towards all cultures and civilizations. We must not forget that Islam defined and elaborated most of the rights included in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights more than fourteen hundred years ago. None of these are new to Islam.
3. There are a number of issues to which the OIC countries would like to draw your attention in the context of the Organization of the Work of the Commission.
4. The OIC remains concerned with human rights situations in various parts of the world. The Islamic Conference of Foreign Minister has consistently adopted resolutions that referred to the situation of human rights and the need for solutions in Israeli occupied territories, the Syrian Golan, Lebanese territory occupied by Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jammu and Kashmir, Kosovo, Chechnya and on the item “the aggression of Armenia against the Azerbaijan Republic”.
5. A Ministerial delegation of the OIC was sent to Moscow by H.E. President Khatami, Chairman of the Eight Islamic Summit in January this year, to discuss a political solution to the Chechen crisis. The delegation underlined the grave and rising concern of the Islamic world over the continuation of hostilities and military operations in Chechnya and the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe that was unfolding in the region. While underlining the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, the delegation also discussed the adoption of concrete steps to deal with the crisis. These steps included: a) termination of military operations to begin the political process; b) release of prisoners and hostages; c) safe return of refugees and displaced persons; d) declaration and implementation of general amnesty; e) commencement of dialogue with responsible Chechen representatives; f) agreement on separations of powers between local and federal authorities in keeping with the 1996 Accord; g) freedom to practice of Islamic Shariat and h) reconstruction of Chechnya through allocation of additional resources by federal authorities as well as to international assistance.
6. We take this opportunity to congratulate Ambassador Anne Anderson for forging consensus on extremely difficult and highly controversial issues in the Working Group on the Review of Mechanisms. The consensus reflects a delicate balance which should be left intact. We believe that the implementation of the Review package will enable the UN human rights meeting to focus on the promotional aspects of human rights. Cooperation between States and human rights mechanisms should be based on the concept of cooperation as defined in the Purposes and Principles and Article 55 of the UN Charter.
7. We appreciate the efforts made to introduce transparency in the negotiating process in the Commission on Human Rights. However, while consultations are sought, the practice of genuine negotiations are often absent. The process continues to lack transparency especially for so-called “country resolutions”. We hope you will take steps to ensure the widest possible participation in the preparation and finalization of the resolutions adopted by the Commission. There is need to examine whether the resolutions tabled in the Commission measure up to the principles of non-selectivity and objectivity as required by the Vienna Declaration. Adherence to these principles can serve to reduce the political tensions and acrimony which so often marks the deliberations of the Commission. For example, we have a case among OIC members whose human rights situation has been considered for seventeen years in this Commission despite the fact that its progressive human rights development is appreciated and acknowledged by the international community.
8. There are certain situations of on-going serious conflict where human rights are already at greatest risk. These situations should be considered in a balanced way by the Commission on Human Rights.
9. Most OIC delegations are small. They cannot keep track of the simultaneous work undertaken during the Commission’s session. Consideration should be given to this when discussions and consultations are to be scheduled. Therefore consultations and negotiations on resolutions should be announced at least 24 hours before they are held. Such announcements should be clearly reflected in the Conference room and on the Website of the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights along with the agenda of the next day. In addition, we would urge the Chair to examine ways and means of instituting structured negotiations and consultations on various resolutions and proposals.
10. In the context of participation of NGOs, we hope, you Mr. Chairman would ensure that the established rules are duly observed by participants.
11. The OIC countries find it extremely disturbing that at recent sessions of the Commission, and its Sub-Commission, attempts have been made to misrepresent and misinterpret the Divine tenets of Islam. We believe that some of this misrepresentation is deliberate. The attempt is to cast Islam in as negative a light as possible. This amounts to slander and defamation.
12. The right of freedom of expression brings with it enormous responsibilities. Without in any way suggesting that it be proscribed we would urge all parties to desist from attacking other religions or philosophies. This Commission can only work in a spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue and relationship between the various streams and plurality of thought that it represents. We trust you will exercise your authority to prevent such incidents or expositions which abuse the right to freedom of expression by seeking to denigrate and defame religions or other beliefs, cultures, or civilizations. In this context, I would like to inform the Commission on Human Rights that the OIC will present an updated version of its resolution on “Defamation of Religions”.