18 MARCH 2003

Madam Chairperson,

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you on your election to preside over the 59th session of the Human Rights Commission. I am confident that, based on your ability and wide experience, you will direct our deliberations to the praiseworthy goals in the defence of human rights which has in the recent past been subjected to a great deal of excesses and violations.

I am also pleased to congratulate Mr. Sergio Vieira de Millo, the High Commissioner for Human Rights on his assumption of this very important post. I trust that, by virtue of his experience and ability, he would be a good defender of human rights questions in the world. This is more so at a time when human rights have become the object of growing international attention, in view of their connection with the fate of millions of human beings.

I should not fail to commend the great efforts of Mrs Mary Robinson on human rights, and for her courageous stands for the support of these rights, defending them with sincerity and integrity, in delicate circumstances, during her term of office.

There is no doubt that the current unstable and volatile condition in the world and their negative impacts on the human rights situation confer greater importance on the work of this Commission, especially since the Human Rights commission is the highest inter-governmental forum concerned with following up human rights matters. This very fact places on it the dual responsibility of follow-up and investigation and to act scrupulously and in fairness in the defence of human rights values with courage and impartiality.

It has already become clear to all that the daily practices of human rights has suffered severe setbacks in recent times. New administrative measures and new restrictive laws enacted in some countries that were once pioneers and advocates for the respect of human rights have adversely affected human rights standards. These countries have now become a theatre of serious human rights violations under the guise of some untenable justifications.

Disturbing anti-Islamic campaigns have also increased in some circles in recent times, propagated by some who hate Islam for political and narrow ideological reasons. In these unfair campaigns, they take advantage of the general climate created by the war against terrorism.

While we regret the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia which brings about prejudice to the virtues of a divine religion which is based on peace and tolerance, I wish to reiterate here that Muslims have no complex whatsoever when dealing with the values of human rights, tolerance, cultural diversity. I wish to state that Islam came more that fourteen centuries ago with a revolution in the pattern of human thought on inter-human interaction on the basis of absolute equality, without any gender, racial or colour discrimination or subordination. While Islam’s other contemporary civilisations were based on the concepts of master and follower; free and slave; elites and non-elites. Islam also adopted a conception of human rights that was more comprehensive and wider than the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For Islam these rights are based on the foundation of ensuring human dignity that includes the right of every man to political, economic, social and moral rights that guarantee for him, in addition to honour, justice, equality and the right to food and shelter.

However, there is an attempt by some enemies of Islam to mix the lofty principles of Islam with some practices that are from time to time attributable to some adherents of Islam. Those practices could have come about from personal considerations that have nothing to do with Islam, but are used to suggest that they emanate from the teachings of Islam. This deliberate mix up is unacceptable, for it does not make sense to attribute everything someone does to his religion even if he uses his religion as a pretext for his action.

The fallouts of the events of September 11 came within the context of unfair accusations that aim to hold all Muslims responsible for the acts of a few Muslims who were thought to have perpetrated the acts. Consequently, facts show that many Muslims in many parts of the world suffer serious violations of their human and political rights and are subjected to oppression and discrimination. The tragedies, injustices and violations suffered by Muslims in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Southern Philippines, Myanmar, Azerbaijan and some states of India such as Gujarat, are graphic examples of the painful realities faced by Muslims today. This situation engenders a great deal of tension and constitutes a threat to peace and security in the world.

The events of 11 September, vehemently condemned by the Islamic world, brought about an increase in the gravity of Muslims’ suffering, particularly in some areas in the Western World. Part of the repercussions is the campaign of witch-hunting against some Muslim communities who were and still are subjected to collective punishments and discriminatory measures that violate international norms. Furthermore, there continued to be issued legislations and administrative measures mainly targeting these communities on the basis of their religion and racial origins.

While I commend in this connection the stand taken by this commission and that of the former High Commissioner for Human Rights against these violations, I fully support its proposal for the need to have on the United Nations committee on combating terrorism a representative of the Human Rights Commission. The duty of the representative would be to regulate excesses that might result from the practical implementation of the committee’s decisions.

I also highly appreciate its stand that it is not enough to oppose international terrorism by recourse to military, security and legislative measures. What is needed here is to ensure upholding universal human values that would make it possible to remove the root causes of international terrorism.

In this vein, there is no doubt that implementing the Programme of Action adopted at the World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban in August 2001, has become more urgent today considering the aftermath of the 11 September events. Likewise the current international situation has pointed up the importance of implementing the resolutions of the International Conference on Financing for Development, held in March 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico; the Conference on Sustainable Development also held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002, if we are to take the world on the path of justice and equality and trust that would eliminate the causes of extremism and hate.

Madam Chairperson,

The Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories englobes and encompasses all violations specified in the lists of human rights abuses. Most of these practices come under war crimes, stipulated in international treaties and conventions. Last year, your Commission witnessed Israeli’s rejection to allow your own delegation to investigate the massacre perpetrated in Jenin and other occupied Palestinian cities. You also know about Israel’s continued refusal of international demands and resolutions to allow international observers to protect the defenceless Palestinians from Israeli repression, or even to document such repressions. Collective punishments, restrictions on movements that last for several days, extra-judicial killing of leaders of civil society, destruction of homes and usurpation of lands are all daily crimes still perpetrated by Israel under the glare of the whole world. Most of these are blatant acts of state terrorism. Your Commission is called upon to document human rights violations in Palestine, and devise new ways by which to prevent Israel from further perpetrating these despicable acts.

Israel must know that its attempts to impose a fait accompli on the Palestinians through force, military means and policy of oppression will yield no result. What it is needed is negotiated solution on equal footing with the Palestinians so as to stop bloodshed. Arriving at a solution in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy guarantees the Palestinian people their inalienable right to self determination and to the establishment of an independent state on their homeland, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

The possibility of launching a US-led unjustified attack against Iraq makes us apprehensive of human catastrophe to be unleashed in the whole of the Middle East region. It would mean the killing of thousands, wounding of tens of thousands and displacement of hundreds of thousands as refugees, as well as total destruction and a humanitarian tragedy whose scale cannot be predicted.

In the face of recent developments, I cannot but reiterate the clear stand of the Organization of the Islamic Conference rejecting any military aggression on Iraq, keen on ensuring its security, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity and calling for the peaceful settlement of the Iraqi crisis within the context of the United Nations and the Security Council and in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. We consider the intended attack against Iraq as a unilateral action which falls outside the framework of the Security Council and the United Nations. This intended attack is of nature to destroy the authority of the Security Council, undermine the basis of international law and defy the international feelings expressed in hundreds of antiwar marches organized in so many cities across the globe. For us the issue of eliminating weapons of mass destruction needs to encompass all States of the Middle East region in consonance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.

We also believe on the other hand that the solution of the Kashimiri problem should be found through the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, which provides for the principle of self determination. This should be the only way out after the failure of attempts to perpetuate a fait accompli on the territories of Jammu and Kashimiri; also after more than 50 years of armed conflicts that have often nearly led to the brink of a devastating war between Pakistan and India.

I cannot but refer to the terrible tragedy that occurred in the Indian State of Gujarat in February and March 2002, when a heinous massacre was carried out against the Muslim population there. The victims of that massacre numbered thousands. They were killed under excessive conditions.

Madam Chairperson,

Man’s economic and social rights are no less important than his political rights. Indeed it can be said that some of these rights have more impact on the lives of millions who live in poverty and exclusion. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any respite in sight to put an end to this occurrence. The reason for this is that the current economic direction driven by globalization does not accord any tangible importance to the situation of these people. Although social human rights which subsume rights of the woman, the child and immigrant workers etc., are gradually and steadily moving towards a better future, the stagnation of the world economic situation continues to impact negatively on the efficiency of the measures taken to secure social rights for many categories of people of the world.

In this connection, I can only add my voice to those calling for greater support for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to enable it discharge its duties. This is all the more so that discharging these duties is more than often done in difficult circumstances. The volatile and unstable conditions prevailing in the world today, make this task more challenging and arduous.

Wa Salaam Alaykum Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh.