HIS EXCELLENCY DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE TO THE FIFTY-EIGHTH SESSION OF THE UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
GENEVA, 9 APRIL 2002
I am gratified, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), to offer congratulations on your unanimous election as Chairman of this important Commission. I also wish your deliberations full success in order to perform the great task entrusted to you.
I also take pleasure in expressing to Mrs. Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, sincere appreciation of the OIC for her diligent efforts, numerous achievements and successful initiatives in discharging her duties at the helm of the High Commission for Human Rights in a spirit of wisdom, farsightedness and commitment to principles and to moral courage in extremely crucial circumstances. We also pay her our respects and wishes for continued success.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The OIC recently organized an international symposium on “Human Rights in Islam”, here at the Palace of Nations, with the participation of a select group of thinkers from different parts of the world. It was also attended by many diplomats, representatives of the civil community and other important figures, who contributed to the deliberations on this important subject which has become one of the most significant events today.
The organization of this symposium and symposia held previously on this very subject demonstrates the importance that we attach to Human Rights from an Islamic perspective, aimed at highlighting the distinguished place of these rights in Islamic culture, considered as one of the important pillars on which the edifice of
Islam is built.
As I already indicated at the opening of the aforementioned symposium, the concept of Human Rights in Islam has a wider scope than that which is universally recognized in international relations at the present time. The Islamic concept is focused on establishing the right to human dignity whose range covers more than mere political rights to reach crucial moral and ethical considerations. Human dignity includes, in addition to the guarantee of political rights, economic rights such as the provision of a decent living in terms of food, clothing, shelter and equality, as well as social rights to the members of the community, whether Muslims or non-Muslims. Despite our continuous effort to project the clear stand of Islam on human rights through many activities, resolutions and recommendations adopted by the OIC meetings, we are still regretfully bothered by the false and prejudiced allegation that is propagated by some bias-motivated sources, including media sources, aimed at distorting Islam, and accusing it of fanaticism, violence and denial of human rights, as well as predicting Islam’s clash with western civilization.
Again, I express my thanks to this august Commission and to the High Commissioner for Human Rights for her adherence to objectivity and credibility in this respect and for her efforts aimed at enlightening minds with facts on which Islam is based, as well as for her condemnation of "Islamophobia".
Islam is the religion of peace, love, understanding and dialogue based on reason and an amicable approach. It is the religion that promotes dialogue among civilizations, that Muslim thinkers developed into a discipline nearly one thousand years ago.
The events of September 11th, which we condemned together with terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, came as a great setback for human rights at both the local and international levels. The distortion of the meaning of such events and the deliberate misinterpretation of its causes, as well as attributing the responsibility for these crimes perpetrated by a small number of misguided elements, suspected to be Muslim extremists, to all Muslims, (who constitute a quarter of the total world population), in addition to accusing them of being the enemies of Western civilization had a great impact on fostering hatred of Muslims among other peoples. All people recognized that these accusations are false, perfidious and absolutely baseless; all inferences are equally wrong and unfounded. Yet they had their bad implications on the perception of Islam and Muslims in the minds of many people, and generally, on Arabs and Muslims. Many of the latter were killed or harmed. Their places of worship, cultural centers and personal properties were attacked. They were terrorized and discriminated against.
These measures were not confined to Arab and Muslim Communities in the West but were coupled with unjust campaigns that were launched against a number of Islamic institutions inside Islamic states as well. They also had negative impacts on the laws that guarantee public freedoms in the Western countries themselves, to the extent that they were curtailed in a very serious way, leading to a real setback for these freedoms.
This is but a direct result of the deliberate inflation of the fallout from the events of September 11, and their interpretation in a manner far removed from their range of probabilities. No doubt that your honorable Commission realized this painful reality and the grave situation arising therefrom and evaluated its negative consequences on its noble work relating to safeguarding the rights of men, regardless of religion, belief, origin, or color of skin. This makes it incumbent on it to work in earnest for redressing this situation with the necessary courage and openness in the interest of entente, harmony and peace in the world. Using double standards and discriminatory, racist and prejudiced practices against a quarter of the world population cannot be in the interest of mankind and its future prosperity.
As we have already mentioned, Muslims and Arabs who are falsely accused of violence and intolerance are, in reality, victims of official hate campaigns that are launched against them under various pretexts. They are also suffering from various forms of bias and usurpation of rights.
It is widely recognized that the occupation of other people’s land by force is the worst form of denial of human rights. In Palestine, we still see that Israel further persists in holding to the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, and denies Palestinians their inalienable right to self-determination which is a basic principle in international law, recognized by the UN Charter and other international conventions. This right has also been reaffirmed by many resolutions and recommendations of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council. Moreover, it is one of the basic rights that were recognized by your Commission on the rights of the Palestinian people for 30 years, as vital and dynamic rights, i.e. they include the guarantee of their rights in civil, economic, social, cultural and political freedoms.
However, Israel not only rejects all these rights for the Palestinian people but also deliberately humiliates the Palestinian people on a daily basis and uses lethal weapons of destruction to strike the Palestinians, to kill them, assassinate their leaders, destroy their houses and farms, and occupy their towns and villages. All of this is taking place despite worldwide and global condemnation of these illegitimate practices, particularly by Mr. Kofi Annan to whom we pay tribute for his courageous stand on the side of what is right against injustice and tyranny.
Suffice it to note, in this respect, the decision of the recent meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on 5 December last which confirmed the involvement of the Israeli military in grave violations of human rights and humanitarian international law in the occupied Palestinian territories by using excessive force, and arbitrary killing and torture of civilians, illegal deportation, prevention of access to fair trials, excessive destruction of property, and confiscation of land. He called for the need to dispatch neutral observers to monitor violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
As we welcome the latest resolution of the UN Security Council No.1397 containing a call for the establishment of two states: Palestinian and Israeli within safe and recognized borders, we hope that this resolution will be translated into concrete action and that the Human Rights Commission will exercise its official and moral responsibility to give the Palestinian people their right to self-determination and to return to their territories in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution No. 194. In this connection, we condemn any attempts to defame the Palestinian national struggle by characterizing it as terrorist. At the same time, we condemn the state-terrorism practiced by the official Israeli authorities against the Palestinian people and their leaders and institutions.
I have the pleasure, on this occasion, to laud the decision adopted by your august Commission to invite the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a speedy inspection visit to the region at the head of an official delegation, and to submit a report on her impressions and findings to the current session of your Commission so that the latter may adopt appropriate recommendations thereon.
I am also pleased to commend the stance of U.S. President George W. Bush, who asked Israel to immediately withdraw its forces from the occupied Palestinian territories. I express satisfaction with the adoption of two resolutions by the UN Security Council stating the same demand.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has reached such deterioration in most recent months that relations between Pakistan and India were on the brink of a nuclear war. This situation just indicates the gravity of the issue and the need for efforts to be combined so that it can be resolved even though it has remained intractable for more than half a century.
The issue here is also connected with the right of self-determination and the implementation of the resolutions of international legitimacy. They are two things that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been unable to achieve. India’s refusal to accept these rights has led to many acts of violence and counter violence that have claimed to the lives of thousands of innocent people over many years. The Organization of the Islamic Conference is of the view that the people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination just as the like all other peoples of the world and the implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolution should be carried out through negotiations between the two neighbors: Pakistan and India. We believe that India’s acceptance of the principle of self-determination which enjoys world-wide approval would strengthen its position and status as one of the most important democratic states in the world and also end a conflict that has been protracted to the point where the whole of humanity faces the risks of evils and tragedies.
The preservation of the religious and cultural identity of Muslim communities around the world is one of the fundamental concerns of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In this respect, I must note that we are following with concern the tragic humanitarian plight of the Chechen people.
I am also duty-bound to draw the attention of your honorable Commission to the unacceptable humanitarian conditions being experienced by Muslims in many parts of the world as is the case especially in Azerbaijan, the Nagorno Karabakh region, and many other areas in the Balkans, Myanmar and other areas.
I must also express my concern at the fate of millions of Muslim refugees who were forcibly dispersed from their homes because of the conditions of misery and deprivation that have endured for long decades as in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and others in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh and some African and Asian countries. I appeal to your Commission to pay particular attention to these humanitarian situations and encourage solutions which secure the return of the refugees to their homes after the resolution of the political problems that led to their displacement.
I would also like to draw your Commission’s attention to the terrible humanitarian plight of Muslim peoples as a result of the imposition on them of unjust blockades and sanctions under various pretexts as in the case of Iraq where thousands of children and patients die on a daily basis as a result of the shortage of medicines and medical care because of the lack of resources and importation difficulties due to the complicated sanction procedures. I also draw attention to the case of Kuwaiti missing persons, and hope that this humanitarian issue will find a satisfactory solution soon.
We share the view of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as expressed in her opening statement of this conference on the need to link the full implementation of the Plans of Action of the United Nations Year on Dialogue among Civilizations with the Plans of Action of the International Conference on Combating Racism. This is a useful and extremely necessary step if we take into consideration the consequences of the 11th of September last which were used as a pretext to fuel feelings of hatred and xenophobia against Islam and Muslims. The new situation that has ensued is a source of serious and growing concern for us as it hits at the very heart of the rights of Muslims and is likely, if ignored, to hurt millions of people by violating their human rights.
We are further confident that your Commission, in view of its well-known sensitivity to human rights and its courage in addressing them, will devote to the rights of the Muslim people the attention and care they deserve, and will thus protect them, and restore to a quarter of the world population their human worth and their basic natural rights.