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 9: “Question of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world”
Geneva, 30 March 2000
I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, except Morocco. This statement reflects the general consensus of the OIC countries arrived at in various conferences and meetings of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
- The Quran and the Islamic Sharia lay down clear parameters for respect of human dignity and the protection of human rights. Islam is a religion of peace. It holds the human being sacred. Man is not sinful but pure and must be treated with respect.
- The Secretary General of the OIC, H.E. Mr. Azeddine Laraki, in his statement to the Commission on Human Rights on 24 March, gave a detailed analysis of the importance of human rights in Islam.
- We fully share the objectives and principles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. In this context, we recall the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights adopted by the Nineteenth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers states that fundamental rights and freedoms are “binding divine commandments” and “that no one as a matter of principle has the right to suspend them in whole or in part or ignore or violate them”. Fundamental rights, therefore, have religious sanctity. The Cairo Declaration provides the general guidelines for OIC Member States in the field of human rights.
- The OIC Member States, individually and collectively, have a number of particular concerns regarding human rights in the world today.
- First, there are several situations where the fundamental human rights of Islamic peoples are being denied and suppressed, through foreign occupation or denial of their right to self-determination.
- We are deeply concerned about gross violations of human rights of Palestinians and other Arabs living under Israeli occupation. In this context, we call upon Israel to releases detainees; return the deportees; halt the methods of mass punishment; cease the confiscation of lands and properties and the demolition of homes; cease any actions that threaten life and the environment in the occupation Palestinian and Arabs territories, including Al Quds Al-Sharif.
- Although the present efforts at peace do present a hopeful sign, the recent military actions in Southern Lebanon and the accompanying human suffering has vitiated the atmosphere. We, therefore, look forward to the implementation of the Israeli decision to withdraw from the Lebanese territories. We also sincerely hope that an early agreement can be reached between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights on the basis of the UN Charter and resolutions and agreements.
- The OIC believes that the people of Afghanistan deserve peace and national reconciliation and reconstruction. The OIC has set up an ad hoc committee on Afghanistan led by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran and representatives of Guinea, Pakistan, Tunisia and the OIC Secretariat. This Committee is working in collaboration with the United Nations. The Ad-hoc Committee has held consultations with Afghanistan’s neighbours and met the Afghan parties with the view to developing a comprehensive, commonly agreeable plan of action to achieve peace in Afghanistan.
- The OIC reaffirms its commitment to preserve the internationally recognized legal continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its sovereignty and territorial integrity and its international personality as a State with two multiethnic entities, and also fully support its peaceful and democratic reintegration as a sovereign democratic multiethnic State. The OIC has set up an Assistance Mobilization Group for Bosnia Herzegovina through which humanitarian assistance, aid for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the cultural heritage as well as support and assistance in the legal field are provided. The OIC is of the view that this Commission should continue to have a comprehensive view of the situation of human rights in the Balkans. The annual omnibus resolution must, therefore, continue to retain the usual list of countries.
- The OIC continues to remain concerned about the persistent use of force and violations of human rights against innocent Kashmiris in Jammu and Kashmir. It calls for the respect of their human rights including their right to self determination as mandated by relevant resolutions of UN Security Council. It affirms that a sustained dialogue is essential to address the core of the problem and to remove the basic cause of tension between India and Pakistan. The OIC underlines the importance of the offer of good offices made by the OIC Foreign Ministers as well as its Summit, in the interest of regional peace and security.
- Also, we are concerned about the security situation in Kosovo. The recent reports of the build up of para-military forces in the north and eastern parts of Kosovo leading to expulsions of Kosovars from their homes is a matter of grave concern.
- The OIC has expressed concern over occupation of the Azebaijani territories the plight of one million Azeri displaced persons and refugees and the severity of this humanitarian problem. It calls for a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the basis of respect for the principles of territorial integrity of States and inviolability of internationally recognized frontiers.
- The OIC is also concerned about the inhuman isolation which has been imposed on the Turkish Cypriot people.
- Most OIC member states remain concerned about the situation in Chechnya. The OIC Ministerial delegation sent to Moscow by H.E. President Khatami, Chairman of the Eighth Islamic Summit in January this year, to discuss a political solution to the Chechen crisis, 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. We seek a solution in Chechnya which, while underlining the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, also envisages the adoption of several concrete steps including: one, termination of military operations to begin the political process; two, release of prisoners and hostages; three, safe return of refugees and displaced persons; four, declaration and implementation of a general amnesty; five, commencement of dialogue with responsible Chechen representatives; six, agreement on separation of powers between local and federal authorities in keeping with the 1996 Accord; seven, ensure to practice their religion; and eight reconstruction of Chechnya by all possible means. Several OIC Countries are engaged in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population affected by the crisis.
- Today the largest number of refugees are hosted in the Islamic world. The defense of human rights and human dignity are deep-rooted in Islamic heritage and tradition and, therefore, such host developing countries are compelled by these principles to assume immense political, economic and social burdens. This continues despite declining levels of international assistance. While we deeply appreciate the generous assistance provided to refugees, it must be recognized that refugees, especially in large numbers, have far-reaching effects on the security, stability and infrastructure of host countries. We call upon the international community to continue to provide assistance for the protection needs of the refugees in the spirit of international solidarity and burden sharing.
- Secondly, Mr. Chairman, the OIC is deeply concerned at the selectivity of certain countries in raising human rights issues in the Commission, especially the tendency to level unfounded allegations against a large number of OIC Member States. In this context, I recall the statement of the OIC under item 3 that “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.”
- The OIC also notes with concern the campaign mounted against some members of the Group. We believe that it would be appropriate to verify facts before reaching unsubstantiated conclusions. Politically motivated attempts to tarnish the image of these countries will not serve the issue of human rights.
- In this context, the misperception spread regarding slavery in some Islamic countries is a case in point.
- Also, we believe that a misunderstanding has been created regarding the implications of the implementation of Sharia laws in some Islamic countries. This was evident from some of the criticism against some OIC Member States in Commission yesterday.
- Thirdly, Mr. Chairman, the OIC Countries are deeply concerned at the frequent and deliberate misrepresentation and slander against Islam. It appears that some quarters are determined to attack our religion at every opportunity. We can only assume that their motive is to generate confrontation and conflict with Islamic peoples; perhaps even to justify the injustices to which many Muslim peoples and nations are being subjected today.
- We condemn efforts to equate Islam with terrorism. The OIC Member States unequivocally condemn all forms of terrorism, including state terrorism against all states and peoples. We reaffirm that the struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination or under foreign occupation, for their national liberation or to regain their right to self-determination, does not constitute an act of terrorism. We wish to adhere to the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Combating International Terrorism especially those relating to undertaking, attempting or participating in any way in financing, instigating or supporting any acts of terrorism. We firmly believe that terrorism constitutes a gross violation of human rights. The OIC supports the convening of an International Conference under the auspices of the United Nations to define terrorism and distinguish it from the struggle of peoples for national liberation.
- Fourthly, the OIC remains deeply concerned at the plight of Muslim minorities in several non-Muslim States. Like other minorities, Muslim communities and minorities in Non-OIC Member States should be able to preserve their religious and cultural identity, and enjoy equal treatment as far as rights, obligations and duties are concerned. They should also have access to all their civic and religious rights without discrimination or distinction. The OIC has over the years expressed concern about those Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States who are exposed to persecution or oppression because of their religious beliefs. We call upon all countries that have such minorities to ensure their protection and the promotion of their fundamental rights.
- In this context, the human rights situation in Europe is marked by disturbing trends. The report of Mr. Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance reveals a persistent pattern of racially motivated attacks against vulnerable minority groups by the local people. There are also repeated incidents involving law enforcement agencies and personnel. In one country migrants and foreigners are taken for “little walks” by the police. Attacks by the so-called “skin-heads” abound. In another country Amnesty International consistently reports that foreigners are the main victims of a continuing pattern of police ill-treatment. In a number of countries forcible deportations have resulted in deaths.
- These acts are aggravated by legislation and administrative rules that often actively discriminate against vulnerable minority groups. In one country police authorities energetically pursued the registration of individuals who belong to the gypsy community. In another there were discriminatory laws for people from a region that was euphemistically called the South.
- Unfortunately, the western countries are still haunted by the spectre of racism. The malignancy of xenophobia continues to spread, often reinforced by official regulations and practices that discriminate against vulnerable minority groups. In the recent past this has caused unimaginable misery and havoc. Evidently the dark forces of the past have still not been buried, as an increasing number of victims of racism and xenophobia would testify. Indeed the virulence of these forces appears to be on the rise as can be seen from the growing support to the extremist far right parties.
- These grave developments ought to have prompted serious introspection on the part of the European Union. The Commission could, justifiably, have expected an explanation from the EU of these disturbing trends. Instead, the EU’s focus remains resolutely and conveniently outwards. The urge persists to pontificate, and to pronounce solemnly on situations of which there, is at times, absurdly little understanding, or worse, a blinkered political perspective that precludes the adoption of any objective position.
- The OIC looks forward to a constructive dialogue during the 56th Session of the Commission on Human Rights. We do not favour proposals and initiatives that are designed to serve the political interests of certain countries or groups. Such proposals will inevitably prove counter productive and confrontational. Only dialogue and cooperation can serve the collective purpose of all Members of the Commission- the promotion and protection of human rights.
I Thank You, Mr. Chairman.