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 Economic and Social Council on Item 14 “Social and Human Rights Questions”
Geneva, 27 July 1999
The OIC member States take a particular interest in the work of the ECOSOC. As a parent body, the ECOSOC has an important role in coordinating the activities of its functional Commissions. Extensive work is done by the functional Commissions and it is largely at the ECOSOC Substantive Session that member states get an opportunity to have an overview of the policy and operational aspects of activities undertaken and decisions made during the year.
2. The OIC takes particular interest in the work of the Commission on Human Rights. The Commission has an extensive agenda. We believe that the Commission should have the capacity to respond to situations where well documented, gross and consistent violations of human rights take place. Kosovo is of course a case in point.
3. The 55th Session of the Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution tabled by member states of the OIC and later co-sponsored by a large number of states in its second week of work. The adoption of the resolution and the subsequent weekly briefings on the Kosovo crisis by the High Commissioner on Human Rights did help keep the Kosovo situation and its human rights dimensions on the forefront of the Commission agenda for this year. The Commission should be able to respond to all such human rights situations where ever they arise.
4. Islam is a religion of peace. It enunciated the concept of human rights more than fourteen centuries ago. It has provided the foundation of many societies and has also had a positive impact on important civilizations throughout the world. Islam and Muslims have been wrongly and sometimes on purpose, identified with human rights violations, terrorism and intolerance. Unfortunately, recent sessions of the Commission, and the Sub-Commission have been used to misrepresent and misinterpret the divine tenets of Islam. We believe that in many instances this misrepresentation is deliberate. Extremist elements exist in all religions and all societies. Yet it is only Islam and Muslims that suffer identification with such regrettable phenomena as terrorism, intolerance and human rights violations. In addition, Islamophobia has unfortunately become a serious and growing human rights concern. The OIC countries find this extremely disturbing.
5. With a view to combat these negative trends, the OIC countries took the lead in the 55th session of the Commission on Human Rights in having a resolution by consensus, 1999/82 entitled “Defamation of religions”. While addressing the broad theme of defamation of religions, the resolution expressed deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and with terrorism. The member states of the OIC believe that we need to go much further in combating the unfortunate trend of negative stereotyping and defamation of Islam and Muslims. We believe that Islamophobia must specifically be included as one of the issues to be discussed in the forthcoming World Conference on Racism. The preparatory process to this conference must devote adequate attention to this extremely serious and growing phenomenon.
6. ECOSOC must ensure that its subsidiary bodies, particularly the Commission on Human Rights and its subsidiary bodies, are not misused to attack religious beliefs of Muslims. ECOSOC must take steps to ensure that such abuse is categorically rejected in its discussion and that of its subsidiary bodies.
7. The OIC values the contributions made by responsible NGOs in the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and promoting the cause of people who continue to be denied their rights upheld by the UN Charter. The OIC is, however, concerned about the activities of some NGOs and their misuse of accreditation procedures in the Commission on Human Rights. Some accredited NGOs and government organized or sponsored NGOs continue to offer their banner to individuals, organizations and governments for purposes that are not concerned with genuine human rights issues but aim at targeting other countries and for propaganda reasons. Their objective is not to work for the promotion and protection of human rights. They allow themselves to be used as a foreign policy tools of certain governments. This defeats the purpose of effective participation of NGOs in UN work.
8. While we appreciate the efforts made by the chair of Commission on Human Rights to introduce transparency in the negotiating process in the Commission on Human Rights, we believe there is need for more work in this area. The process continues to lack transparency especially for so-called “country resolutions”. There is need for the widest possible participation in the preparation and finalization of the resolutions adopted by the Commission. Moreover, 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.
9. The OIC member states also remain deeply concerned about gross violations of human rights of Palestinians and other Arabs living under Israeli occupation. The 55th Session of the Commission on Human Rights adopted a number of resolutions on the matters including a resolution reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
10. Finally, we the OIC member states are especially interested in deliberations that would take place in the Working Group on Review of Mechanisms that is expected to meet in September. The setting of the working group by the ECOSOC is a manifestation of the concern of the majority of the members of the Commission that the issues included in the report need to dealt with in a holistic manner. The Working Group should examine all issues with the view to arriving at consensus decisions.
I thank You, Mr. President.