HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH RECOMMENDATIONS TO
THE EUROPEAN UNION FOR THE UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS 2001
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. A UNIVERSAL
EU Nice European Council Document.
Standing invitations to UN human rights mechanisms.
2. DRAFT CONVENTION
Background and reasons for the convention.
Recommendations and process.
3. VIOLENCE AGAINST
Violence against children.
The use of children as soldiers.
4. VIOLENCE AGAINST
5. DEATH PENALTY
7. COUNTRY CONCERNS
The Democratic Republic of Congo
Israel/Palestinian Authorities, the Occupied
1. A UNIVERSAL
EU Nice European Council Document
Human Rights Watch welcomes the Nice European
Council's endorsement of the EU High Representative/Secretary
General's and European Commission's policy paper on "Improving
the Coherence and Effectiveness of European Union Action in the
Field of Conflict Prevention".
In this important move the EU committed itself
to undertake new and pro-active efforts on behalf of conflict
prevention and crisis management by embracing a universal system
of human rights and humanitarian law as centre of EU policy. The
policy among others stresses the need for enhanced support to
UN treaty bodies, special human rights mechanisms and their work.
However, for the policy to be affective and credible a number
of concrete steps will be required.
At this moment Human Rights Watch would recommend
EU support to UN human rights mechanisms:
Consistent with the EU's commitment to strengthen
and support UN human rights mechanisms, Human Rights Watch urges
EU member states to:
Consistently seek information from
UN treaty bodies and the special mechanisms of the UN Commission
on Human Rights, regarding their findings, concerns, recommendations,
access problems etc. ensuring that such information becomes an
integral part of the EU common foreign and security policy (CFSP);
Appoint an EU liaison person in the
Policy Unit of the EU High Representative/Secretary General to
maintain close contact and collaboration with the office of the
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and other UN human rights
mechanisms, as well as the office of the UN Secretary General;
Undertake a joint effort to ensure
UN human rights mechanisms' funding through the general UN budget.
Standing Invitations to UN human rights mechanisms
As the EU is pledging its commitment to support
and promote the work of the UN human rights mechanisms as an integral
component of its CFSP, it should also demonstrate willingness
to co-operate with all the thematic mechanisms' work in EU member
states. All human rights mechanisms are established by resolutions
adopted by the Commission in which all UN member states can participate.
Country missions are part of the established methods of the mechanisms'
work. In order to undertake a country visit the individual human
rights mechanism has to be invited by the state concerned. EU
member states should do their best to assist and facilitate such
visits and co-operate with UN thematic human rights mechanisms.
Human Rights Watch urges all EU member
states to issue Standing Invitations to all UN thematic human
rights mechanisms during the Commission's 57th session, or deposit
such Standing Invitations with the High Commissioner.
The issuing of such Standing Invitations would
greatly enhance efficiency of the process that UN mechanisms are
bound by, reduce delays and decrease the administrative burdens
on all parties. Standing Invitations would enable mechanisms to
plan and prioritise visits more effectively and would depoliticise
the whole process of country visits by shifting the focus away
from the question of access to questions of substance.
Canada, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Norway
have already issued Standing Invitations to all UN human rights
Last September, prior to the Commission's intersessional
meeting we called on all government members of the CHR to issue
a standing invitation to all thematic Special Procedures of the
CHR. Since the Special Procedures have all been established by
resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights and since country
missions are part of the working methods to fulfil their mandates,
we believe our suggestion is a logical consequence of this membership.
A state's willingness to cooperate with the CHR's monitoring mechanisms
should be a condition of eligibility for Commission membership.
In addition, governments which themselves engage
in systematic or widespread abuses should not be elected to this
body. Experience teaches that the participation of such governments
in the Commission is often focused on minimising the exposure
of their own human rights record rather than on stigmatising the
worst human rights violations in the world and devising methods
to bring about the urgently needed change of these practices.
2. DRAFT CONVENTION
Background and reasons for the Convention
The practice of forced "disappearances"
constitutes one of the most appalling human rights violations.
Over the past years persons have been "disappeared"
in countries such as Algeria, Russia/Chechnya, Colombia, Indonesia/East
Timor, Iraq and Sudan. Provisions in the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) enshrine the rights that
are violated by the occurrence of forced disappearances and impose
a duty on a States party to protect and ensure the enjoyment of
those rights. The ICCPR has, however, been insufficient to prevent
and end the practice. There is an acute need for the adoption
of a convention on forced disappearances. At its August 1998 session,
the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
forwarded to the Commission on Human Rights a draft convention
on the protection of all persons from enforced disappearances.
The current text expands and strengthens the provisions of the
UN Declaration on "disappearances" adopted in 1992 by
the General Assembly and would constitute a valuable tool in the
struggle against this grisly practice. The draft convention defines
the crime of "disappearance" and declares that its widespread
or systematic practice constitutes a crime against humanity. At
its regular session in 1999 the Commission chose not to make substantial
progress in the elaboration of this treaty. In 2000 the Sub-Commission
recommended that the "Commission on Human Rights, in light
of the fact that it has recently concluded its consideration of
the draft optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, establish an inter-sessional working group to consider
the draft international convention on the protection of all persons
from forced disappearance". In a resolution adopted at its
2000 session the Commission on Human Rights called on States to
"submit their views and comments, as a matter of priority,
on the Draft International Convention, on the follow-up thereto,
and, in particular, on whether an inter-sessional working group
should be set up to consider the draft International Convention".
International human rights instruments in force
do not establish specific obligations of prevention, investigation,
suppression and international cooperation necessary for combating
the practice of forced disappearance. For example the ICCPR does
not confirm such obligations as classifying forced disappearance
as a crime under national legislation; exercising territorial
criminal jurisdiction on an extraterritorial basis with respect
to presumed perpetrators of forced disappearance; maintaining
registers of detainees; preventing and suppressing the abduction
of children born during the captivity of disappeared mothers.
Equally the ICCPR does not establish the right to reparation for
victims and their families. While the Rome Statute permits punishment
for forced disappearance by the International Criminal Court (ICC),
it is limited to when the crime is committed "as part of
a generalised or systematic attack against the civilian population",
that constitutes a crime against humanity.
So although both the ICCPR and the Rome Statute
do address certain aspects of forced disappearance, a specific
treaty would be required in order to regulate the obligations
specific to the prevention and suppression of the practice. The
situation is somehow similar to that involving torture, but even
while torture is specifically prohibited by the ICCPR, a separate
treaty was adopted in order to prevent and suppress it.
Recommendations and Process
Several EU member states have shown interest
in the effort to draft this important Convention:
It is important that the EU as such voices strong
support to this initiative and that it uses the 57th session of
the Commission on Human Rights to:
Emphasise the importance of the adoption
of a clear and comprehensive convention on forced disappearances;
Call on the Commission to entrust
an inter-sessional Working Group with the examination and adoption
of a strong text for the Convention;
Call on the Commission to designate
an Expert to comment and clean-up the current draft text of the
convention prior to the meeting of the inter-sessional Working
3. VIOLENCE AGAINST
Throughout the world, in developing and industrialised
countries alike, children are subject to unconscionable violence.
On the street, in schools, in institutions, the workplace, and
elsewhere, life-threatening abuses are often perpetrated against
children, often by the very individuals charged with their safety
Children are easily victimised because they
are young, often small, ignorant of their rights, and frequently
do not have adults to whom they can turn for assistance. Particularly
vulnerable are those children who are institutionalised, who are
from ethnic minorities, or who live on the streets.
Since 1991, Human Rights Watch has published
18 reports on violence against children by police and state authorities,
covering 14 countries on six continents. At virtually every stage
of contact with the law, children may be subject to abuse. Street
children are frequently beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and
even killed by police and security forces. They are frequently
subject to extortion, and street girls are sometimes forced to
provide sex in addition to money to avoid arrest or to be released
from police custody. Children are frequently taken into custody
with insufficient cause, and then subjected to brutal interrogations
and torture, in order to solicit false confessions, information,
or simply as a means of intimidation. Once placed in detention,
children may be routinely abused physically, subjected to sexual
assault, and placed in restraints or isolation for prolonged periods.
Orphanages are home to millions of orphaned
and abandoned children around the world. Dependent on the state
for care, many of these children are exposed instead to shocking
and sometimes deadly levels of abuse and neglect. In 1998, we
found that some children in Russian orphanages were restrained
in cloth sacks, locked in freezing rooms for days at a time, sexually
abused and beaten. Children have been tortured by shoving their
heads in a toilet, and running electrical current through metal
beds where they have been placed naked. An investigation of Chinese
orphanages in 1995 found that children were tied to cribs, beds
and chairs, and subjected to such malign neglect that mortality
rates in some institutions exceeded 50 per cent. Such institutions
are often closed to outside scrutiny and children have no mechanism
for reporting abuse.
Even in schools, many children find that violence
is a regular part of their experience. Teachers sometimes use
canning, slapping, and whipping to maintain classroom discipline
and to punish children for poor academic performance. The infliction
of corporal punishment is often routine, arbitrary, and brutal.
In extreme cases, beatings by teachers have left children permanently
disfigured, disabled, or dead. Some countries have taken steps
to ban corporal punishment in the schools, but it remains a practice
allowed by law in scores of others.
Girls in many countries endure sexual harassment
and abuse in educational settings at the hands of teachers and
other students. In South Africa, for example, a 1998 study by
CIETafrica found that one in three Johannesburg girls experienced
sexual violence at school; two-thirds of those subjected to sexual
violence did not report the abuse to anyone.
Children who identify as or are perceived to
be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered may experience harassment
and violence from other students, while school authorities fail
In a welcome response to such violence, the
Committee on the Rights of the Child agreed to focus two general
days of discussionin 2000 and in 2001to the issues
of violence against children. Aspects of the issue being examined
by the Committee include mistreatment, abuse and neglect of children
in the care of the state, violence against children in the context
of law and public order concerns, violence suffered by children
in schools, and violence within the family.
Although violence against children is rampant,
its full extent and impact is still unknown. For this reason,
Human Rights Watch strongly endorse the recommendation from the
Committee on the Rights of the Child (following its September
2000 general day of discussion on violence against children) that
the Secretary-General be requested by the General Assembly to
conduct an in-depth study on the issue of violence against children.
The Committee noted that such a study should be as thorough and
influential as the 1996 Machel Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict
The EU will be the sponsor of this year's resolution
on children's rights. In this resolution the Commission should:
Recommend that the Secretary-General
undertakes a major international study on violence against children
similar in its thoroughness and influence to the Graca Machel
report on children and armed conflict. As recommended by the Committee
on the Rights of the Child, such a study should, inter alia,
explore the different types of violent treatment of which
children are victims, identify their causes, the extent of such
violence, and its impact on children, and put forward recommendations
for action, including effective remedies and preventative and
Request special rapporteurs and working
groups to systematically include violence against children in
country and thematic reports.
Request that the High Commissioner
for Human Rights organise a special workshop for all relevant
special rapporteurs to examine violence against children and ways
in which special rapporteurs can more effectively incorporate
this issue into their work;
Urge all states to vigorously investigate
violence against children by state authorities, take effective
steps to protect children from such violence, and hold accountably
Welcome Somalia's stated commitment
to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
Urge the United Statesthe
only country that has not moved to ratify the Convention on the
Rights of the Childto do so, without reservations and any
The use of Children as Soldiers
Important steps were taken in the last year
to stop the use of children as soldiers. The conclusion and adoption
of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the
Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict established,
for the first time, a sorely-needed prohibition on conscription,
forced recruitment or participation of children under the age
of 18 in armed conflict, while unfortunately failing to prohibit
voluntary recruitment of 16 and 17-year olds. The swift pace of
signaturesnow 75promises early entry into force
for the new standard.
Despite the new standard, children continue
to be used as soldiers in more than 30 countries, world-wide.
Countries of particular concern include Columbia, the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and Uganda.
In Columbia, opposition guerrilla and paramilitaries often linked
to the armed forces maintained more than 5,000 children in their
ranks. In Sierra Leone, both the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)
and pro-government forces continued to forcibly recruit children,
including demobilised child soldiers.
In the DRC, child soldiers number over 12,000
by UNICEF's estimates. Although a presidential demobilisation
decree was issued, it is unclear how many children have been demobilised
from the government's forces. Rebel groups fighting the government,
meanwhile, continue to recruit and use child soldiers, often with
the full support of foreign backers. Uganda in particular has
trained and equipped children as part of the Liberation Movement
for the Congo (MLC) and the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation
movement (RCD-ML). Many of these children have been trained in
Uganda. The mainstream RCD, backed by Rwanda, also is actively
recruiting large numbers of children for its forces.
In Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) have reportedly forcibly recruited many children
in a new recruitment drive, despite commitments made to the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed
Conflict not to recruit children under the age of 17. In a December
gun battle between LTTE and government forces, the majority of
guerrilla fighters reportedly killed were children, mostly girls.
In Northern Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army
(LRA) escalated attacks against civilians in the last year, including
the forced abduction of children. Over the past 14 years, UNICEF
estimates that more than 12,000 children have been abducted by
the LRA and frequently forced to commit atrocities against civilians
and each other. Some 6,000 are believed to remain in captivity
in LRA bases inside government-controlled Sudan. The LRA, which
has no bases inside Uganda, is entirely dependent on the government
of Sudan, which provides arms, training and facilities. Despite
an October 2000 agreement, and several earlier agreements, between
the governments of Uganda and Sudan to ensure the release and
return of the abducted children, extremely few children have been
returned to safety. Five years have passed since this LRA practice
of abducting, brutalising and conscripting children, facilitated
and condoned by the government of Sudan, was first exposed. This
led Stephen Lewis, formerly deputy director of UNICEF who negotiates
with the government of Sudan on this problem, to remark about
the government of Sudan: "In my experience, where these children
are concerned, this is not a government [the government of Sudan]
that cares one whit about the meaning of negotiation. We've tried
that, as we should have triedeveryone's triedwe
failed. The capacity to manipulate and to barricade wins out every
time. The December 1999 so-called Nairobi Agreement has had this
result. In the past nine months, 28 children have been returned.
It's not even absolutely certain that they were all abductees.
There are somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 who remain, [living]
in a state of ruin. I don't trust them even now with further negotiations
going on behind the scenes because the government of Sudan artfully
and brilliantly toys with the international community. And everyday,
every single day that we pretend that moral persuasion is the
answer is another day carved out of the life of a child."
Human Rights Watch urges the EU to:
Pledge EU member states' commitment
to ratify without reservations the Optional Protocol to the Convention
on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed
Urge all states to sign and ratify
without reservation the Optional Protocol to the Convention on
the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed
Conflict and to stipulate a minimum age of eighteen years for
voluntary recruitment into the armed forces;
Urge all states to sign and ratify
without reservation, the ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms
of Child Labour;
Urge all states to sign and ratify
the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court;
Support the announced mission of
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to
northern Uganda to investigate the abduction of children by the
LRA, including its effective follow-up, and call upon the government
of Sudan to: (a) facilitate a visit by the OHCHR to LRA camps,
and (b) comply with all the terms of the October 2000 agreement,
whereby the Ugandan children in LRA custody in Sudan are to be
returned immediately to Uganda.
4. VIOLENCE AGAINST
Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that
states have failed to investigate, prosecute and punish cases
of co-called "honour killings". Men who murder female
family members to restore "family honour" enjoy impunity
because states fail to prioritise the investigation and prosecution
of these killings. In the rare cases in which the perpetrator
is prosecuted and convicted, the perpetrator rarely receives a
significant sentence because restoring family honour is considered
a mitigating factor. State tolerance of these killings violates
women's right to life and security of person.
In September 2000, the United Nations Population
Fund (UNFPA) estimated that as many as 5,000 women and girls are
murdered each year in "honour killings" by members of
their own families. In many countries, communities place a high
value on women's chastity and tie the behaviour of women to family
"honour". Some of these communities sanction murders
in which women are killed by male relatives for bringing "dishonour"
upon their families. A family's belief that a women or girl has
dishonoured the family can be based on reasons such as marrying
someone her family disapproves of, seeking a divorce, being raped,
being suspected of committing adultery, or for being the subject
of a rumour. The perpetrators of such crimes escape accountability
in countries where such violence is treated as an accepted means
of controlling women's behaviour rather than a serious crime.
Women who are the victims of sexual and domestic
violence may be particularly vulnerable to being targeted for
"honour killings". Despite the prevalence of both sexual
and domestic violence, Human Rights Watch has documented how discriminatory
laws against women, biased officials, inefficient collection or
analysis of medico-legal evidence and lack of forensic competence,
compound the barriers to justice faced by women. Thus women who
are victims of sexual violence are discredited and disbelieved.
Women who are victims of domestic violence are blamed for the
violence and viewed as incompetent wives. Such attitudes in the
criminal justice system both place women at risk of further violence
from family members and create the excuse used to justify impunity
for male perpetrators.
For example, according to the Criminal Code
of Pakistan, if a women reports being raped, her testimony does
not carry the same legal weight as that of a man. If she fails
to convince the court of the veracity of her claim, she may be
prosecuted for adultery or fornication. Under both Jordanian and
Pakistani law, women can only prove allegations of rape by meeting
excessive requirements of corroborating evidence. Even if a woman
can meet these requirements, evidence of previous sexual activity
may be admitted in the proceedings and lead to charges that she
is "immoral". In both countries, being raped, being
deemed immoral or committing adultery are all considered ways
of "dishonouring" the family.
In Jordan, an estimated 25 to 30 women are killed
every year in the name of family honour. Under the Jordanian Penal
Code, "honour" is a mitigating defence in charges of
assault and murder, and a man is not liable for prosecution under
murder charges if he kills his wife or any close female blood
relative in the act of adultery. The Jordanian Lower House has
twice failed to abolish legislation revoking Article 340 of the
Jordanian Penal Code, although the Upper House had agreed twice
to repeal it. Women who are killed in Jordan in the name of honour
are denied a funeral and buried in unmarked graves.
It is believed that more than a thousand women
and girls are killed each year by family members in Pakistan.
Pakistani courts hand down disproportionately light sentences
in the rare cases of "honour killings" that are actually
prosecuted. Most cases are never brought to trial because police
are easily persuaded by the victim's families to dismiss the complaints
as "domestic accidents". The laws dealing with serious
crimes, known as Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (compensation),
conceptualise the crimes of murder and aggravated assault as crimes
against the individual rather than the state, thus allowing the
heirs of a victim of murder to forgive the murderer. This has
exposed many such heirs to familial and societal pressure and
intimidation to pardon family members for the murder of female
Under international human rights law, governments
are obligated not only to provide redress to victims of gender-based
violence, but also to ensure protection of women from violence.
Most states have failed to take the necessary steps to provide
redress and have failed to implement measures to protect women
from so-called "honour killings". In Jordan, women who
are perceived to be at risk of being killed are placed into the
protective custody of prisons or correction facilities for periods
ranging from a few months to over three years. Ironically, they
are only allowed to leave the facility with the approval of a
male guardian who may very well be the person who has determined
that she has "dishonoured" the family. Women are not
permitted to make the choice to leave the correction facilities,
effectively making them prisoners of the state. Thus women are
deprived of liberty and suffer a wide range of violations even
as the potential perpetrators enjoy complete freedom. In Pakistan,
shelters set up by women's rights activists to provide an alternative
from the state run version cannot fully guarantee safety. Such
shelters have been the targets of harassment and intimidation
from various individuals and groups.
At the Beijing +5 review session held in New
York in June (UNGASS 2000), states agreed to develop, adapt and
fully implement laws to eradicate harmful customary or traditional
practices including 'honour crimes' and recognised such crimes
as a violation of women's human rights.
Human Rights Watch urges the EU to:
Condemn "honour killings"
and call on governments to take immediate action to repeal discriminatory
laws and end discriminatory practices that result in impunity
for violence against women;
Call on states to ratify, without
reservation, the CEDAW.
5. DEATH PENALTY
The death penalty has continued to be applied
in many countries despite its inherent cruelty. The situation
in the United Stated is of particular concern to Human Rights
In the United States, the death penalty has
been applied in an arbitrary and racially discriminatory manner.
Foreign nationals, the mentally ill or retarded, and juvenile
offenders are executed in defiance of international standards.
Defendants facing a death sentence are often poor and provided
with inadequate legal representation. The threat of executing
innocent persons is now evidentsince 1973, 92 people in
22 states have been released from death row due to evidence of
their innocence. In January 2000, after the execution of thirteen
death-row inmates, Governor George Ryan issued an open-ended moratorium
on executions in Illinois, and other states are considering moratoriums.
Between January and October 2000, four juvenile
offenders were executed in the United States; two were executed
in Texas, two in Virginia. In August, a fifth juvenile offenderwho
is also mentally illcame within a day of his death sentence
being carried out when Georgia' Supreme Court decided to consider
his appeal. Of the 38 US states that retain the death penalty,
23 allow its imposition for crimes committed under the age of
18. Seventy-one juvenile offenders were on death row in the US
as of October 2000.
At the same time, the Justice Department continues
its study of the federal death penalty. In its interim report,
it noted significant racial and geographic disparities in the
way the death penalty is applied. While there has been a de facto
moratorium on federal executions for 36 years, several executions
are now scheduled during 2001.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment
in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and because
executions are inevitably carried out in an arbitrary manner,
inflicted primarily on the most vulnerablethe poor, minorities,
and mentally ill or retarded persons. Moreover, the intrinsic
fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even
when full due process of law is respected, innocent persons may
Human Rights Watch welcomes the EU's active
engagement over the past years on behalf unconditional worldwide
abolition of the death penalty.
In the EU sponsored resolution of the death
penalty the EU should:
Urge those countries that have not
abolished the practice to invoke a moratorium on executions and
engage in legal efforts to completely outlaw death penalty;
Condemn, and mention by name, those
countries where capital punishment is practised;
Express strong concern about developments
in countries where current moratoriums appear to be in jeopardy;
Reiterate that the imposition of
death penalty against persons under 18 years of age violates obligations
under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights,
the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as customary
international law as affirmed by the Sub-commission on Human Rights
in resolution 2000/17;
Reiterate that the imposition of
death penalty against persons with mental retardation violates
international human rights principles affirmed in International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
In the strongest terms condemn the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and the United States for their
continued practice of imposing death penalty on under 18 year
old criminal offenders during 2000.
Fifty years after the establishment of the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and
the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Refugee
Convention), many governments primarily responsible for setting
up the international refugee protection regime are now trying
to dismantle it. In particular, European Union (EU) governments
have led the charge to weaken international refugee protection,
erecting barriers that obstruct the right to seek and enjoy asylum
and diminish the quality of protection for those who reach Western
Barriers include visa requirements and carrier
sanctions that make it difficult for asylum seekers to freely
leave their countries and seek asylum elsewhere, and increasing
use of detention as a deterrent and also as a punitive measure
for asylum seekers who arrive without valid documents. Many EU
governments have interpreted their obligations under the Refugee
Convention in an extremely restrictive manner, often resulting
in the exclusion from refugee protection of those most in need.
Asylum seekers fleeing persecution by non-state actors, such as
in Algeria, or situations of generalised violence or civil conflict,
such as in Colombia, have been excluded from refugee protection
in some Western European states. In an especially worrying development,
in the last couple of years some EU states, including Austria
and the United Kingdom, have argued that the Refugee Convention
is outdated and ill-equipped to deal with modern migration movements.
The United Kingdom has proposed that asylum applications from
individuals from countries that EU governments consider to be
"safe" should not be considered.
The restrictive and punitive measures have not
been limited to Western Europe. Other industrialised countries,
including the United States and Australia, have adopted many of
the same polices, including mandatory detention for asylum seekers
who arrive without valid documents, often for long periods of
time under inappropriate conditions. In the United States, asylum
seekers may be detained in remote local jails alongside criminal
inmates. Detention in jails around the country makes obtaining
crucial legal assistance more difficult and contact with family
or friends nearly impossible. No matter where they are held, asylum
seekers often face overcrowding, poor health care, and little
time out of doors while detained for long periods.
Restrictive immigration and asylum policies
are taking place within a climate of increasing hostility and
xenophobia, particularly in Western Europe and Australia. Such
attitudes are fuelled by the inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric
of politicians and the media. There has also been an alarming
rise in xenophobic and racist violence across Western Europe,
without effective sanctions against the perpetrators.
Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to:
Urge member states to use the opportunity
of the fiftieth anniversary of UNHCR and the 1951 Refugee Convention
to reaffirm their commitment to protecting refugees and upholding
their obligations under the Refugee Convention and to reverse
the negative trends in asylum and immigration policy of the past
Urge all states that have not yet
acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating
to the Status of Refugees to do so;
Express commitment to accede to the
1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights
of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families;
In this year of the World Conference
against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
Intolerance, encourage member states to take active measures to
combat xenophobia and racism against refugees, asylum seekers,
7. COUNTRY CONCERNS
We wish to call the attention of the Commission
to the disturbing fact that no progress has been achieved in locating
or determining the fate of the thousands of Algerians who have
"disappeared" at the hands of security forces since
1992. Despite President Bouteflika's welcome acknowledgement of
the problem, government officials have disclosed little beyond
often conflicting statistics that downplay the scope of the problem
and attempt to portray the "disappeared" as persons
who, for the most part, joined or were abducted by armed groups.
Organisations composed of families of the "disappeared"
have documented well over 4,000 cases where there is evidence
of security force involvement; some human rights lawyers believe
the actual number of cases exceeds 10,000 most dating from the
period 1993 to 1997. The government has consistently declined
requests from independent human rights organisations to provide
the names of individuals whose cases it claims to have elucidated,
making it impossible to check this information against cases compiled
by Algerian lawyers and rights organisations, or to check with
families whether the government has provided them with the same
information concerning their loved ones. Organisations representing
families of "disappeared" persons insist that, with
very few exceptions, their relatives have not been found and the
government has no furnished credible information about their status.
We also wish to express our concern regarding
the continued refusal of Algeria to respond to longstanding requests
to visit the country by the UN special rapporteurs on torture
and on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. Government
officials have contended that Algeria's official reports to the
Human Rights Committee and other treaty bodies adequately fulfil
the government's requirements in this regard, and that it is under
no obligation to co-operate with what it has termed "secondary
mechanisms" such as the special rapporteurs and working groups.
The EU should urge the government
of Algeria to disclose all information at its disposal regarding
the status and whereabouts by name of all persons who went missing
after being taken into state custody. The EU should also urge
the government of Algeria (especially considering its status as
a new member of the Commission) to respond positively to requests
of the special mechanisms of the Commission to conduct official
visits to the country.
The Burmese government has taken no steps to
improve its disastrous human rights record. The ruling State Peace
and Development Council (SPDC) has pursued a strategy of marginalising
the democratic opposition through detention, intimidation, and
restrictions on basic civil liberties. The government has begun
direct discussions with Aung San Suu Kyi, as the UN Secretary
General's Special Envoy, Ambassador Ismail Razali announced in
January. But she remains under de facto house arrest. It is unclear
at this point how the dialogue process will evolve, and whether
or not it will result in concrete confidence building measures
such as lifting of restrictions on NLD members and the release
of large numbers of political prisoners. The Burmese government
continues to deny its citizens freedom of expression, association,
assembly, and movement. Members of the democratic opposition National
League for Democracy have been intimidated into resigning from
the party and encouraged crowds to denounce NLD members elected
to parliament in the May 1990 election but not permitted to take
their seats. However, over the past weeks, the SPDC has made some
positive gestures including allowing the re-opening of the NLD
headquarters and the dismissal from court of a claim to part of
Aung San Suu Kyi's home property. Several high-profile political
prisoners have also been released during the past year, but the
SPDC continues to arrest individuals engaged in peaceful political
activities. It also has been depriving ethnic minority Muslim
Rohingya of full citizenship rights, restricting their freedom
of movement, imposing arbitrary taxation and extorting them. Despite
international condemnation, the system of forced labour remains
intact. In 2000 a delegation from the ILO, visited Rangoon and
other areas at the SPDC's invitation. Its report called for the
SPDC to cease the use of forced labour, repeal or amend legal
provisions for forced labour in the Village and Towns acts, monitor
compliance, and penalise those who employ forced labour. On a
positive note many universities in the countries have been reopened
after having been closed since 1996.
In areas still affected by armed conflict in
eastern Burma, gross violations of international human rights
and humanitarian law continue. Tens of thousands of villagers
in the conflict areas remain in forced relocation sites or internally
displaced within the region facing curfews, looting, and restrictions
on movement at the hands of the Burmese army.
No human rights organisations have been allowed
to operate in the country and for the fifth year in a row, the
SPDC has refused to admit, UN Special Rapporteur to Burma. A new
Special Rapporteur, Paulo Pinheiro, has just been appointed and
plans to visit the region in February.
Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to sponsor
a Burma resolution:
In which the Commission urges the
SPDC to implement the ILO's recommendations regarding forced labour
and to co-operate fully with both the UN Special Rapporteur and
the Secretary General's Special Envoy;
In which the Commission extends the
Special Rapporteur's mandate for another year.
The civil war continued in Burundi, with both
the government and rebel forces responsible for atrocities against
civilians. Members of the armed forces have abused civilians without
being held accountable by their superiors or the government as
a whole. They have also failed to protect civilians, permitting
attacks even within the city of Bujumbura without any reaction.
Rebels have continued to kill civilians and to loot their property.
The field office of the High Commission of Human
Rights, which cut its staff in late 1999 following a security
alert, operated in 2000 with reduced staff and resources. Thus
handicapped, it limited its work mostly to improving the judicial
system and did not report publicly on human rights abuses. It
even stopped circulating confidential reports to the diplomatic
More than 100,000 civilians have been slain
in Burundi, both by Hutu and by Tutsi. Many of these killings
are crimes against humanity and some have been described as genocide
by a UN commission of inquiry. They must be prosecuted promptly
by an international tribunal and by Burundian courts, which meet
international fair trial standards.
The EU should urge the Commission
to take bold steps to strengthen the field office with the mandate
and resources necessary for rigorous monitoring and public reporting,
particularly during this transition period following the Arusha
Accords when establishing respect for human rights will be crucial
for ensuring peace;
The Special Rapporteur on Burundi,
Marie-Therese A. Keita Boucoum, has been able to visit Burundi
only briefly, but spoke out clearly against killings and other
abuses by both military and rebels. The EU should support an effort
to renew her mandate;
In order to end impunity, the EU
should reaffirm that leaders on all sides who were responsible
for war crimes or crimes against humanity must be brought to justice,
using Burundian national courts as well as an international tribunal;
The EU should express its support
to the Arusha Agreement's provisions to establish an international
commission of inquiry and subsequently an international tribunal
to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,
as well as the provision to establish a national truth and reconciliation
The majority of cases now pending
would be judged in Burundian courts. Given the current limitations
in number and resources of these courts, the EU should commit
resources, and urge other UN member states to join in providing
the assistance necessary for the courts to function effectively
and with due process, including training new judicial personnel.
In October 1997, China signed the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); a year
later it signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR). Human Rights Watch welcomed these positive steps
and urged prompt action to ratify and fully implement the treaties.
However, in October 2000, members of the Standing Committee of
the National People's Congress (NPC), postponed ratifications
of the ICESCR until "every article ... is in harmony with
China's real situation and relevant laws and regulations".
The ICCPR has yet to be submitted to the NPC for consideration.
In the years since China signed the covenants,
Human Rights Watch has documented serious violations of human
rights, raising questions about the Chinese government's willingness
to adhere to basic international standards. Throughout 2000, the
Chinese government suppressed efforts to form independent trade
unions or to strike for better working conditions. It also suppressed
those trying to express their political opinions via the Internet
and other media, to worship outside officially sanctioned religious
congregations, to form an opposition political party, or to meet
with others to meditate and exercise. Government officials continue
to interfere in the judicial process. Thousands of Chinese citizens
were arbitrarily held for as long as three years in re-education
through labour camps. Human Rights watch continued to receive
reports of torture and prison deaths in Tibet and Xinjiang and
increasing numbers of executions in Xinjiang.
Freedom of expression via the Internet has been
threatened by new regulations banning all information that promulgates
heretical ideas, goes against the constitution, endangered state
security or threatens national unity. Additional bans limited
the use of news from other than official sources.
Freedom of religion remained restricted. In
November and December 2000, hundreds of non-state-controlled religious
sites in Zhejiang Province were destroyed or converted to secular
uses. Worshippers in several provinces who refused to join official
churches were in custody. New regulations tightened limits on
proselytising, and the official campaign, begun in July 1999,
against the quasi-religious Falun Gong, continued and intensified
last year. In Tibet, the government controlled selection of Buddhist
religious leaders and closed monasteries and nunneries at will.
Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to sponsor
or co-sponsor a resolution in which the Commission:
Deplores ongoing human rights violation
Calls on China to invite the appropriate
UN Special Rapporteur and Working Groups to visit. In particular
there is an urgent need for visits by the Special Rapporteur on
Torture under conditions that apply to all member states, a return
visit by the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, and
visits by the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection
of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the independence
of judges and lawyers.
Human Rights Watch welcomed China's decision
last November to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with
the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights on the development
and implementation of technical co-operation programmes. However,
we question whether these programs will lead to any significant
human rights improvements.
China has a poor record of compliance with UN
human rights standards, and of co-operation with its human rights
mechanisms. China has circumvented provisions of the UN treaties
it has signed, used the rubric of "the rule of law"
to justify laws and regulations that clearly violate international
human rights standards, and failed to implement the recommendations
of the Commission's thematic mechanism. Mr Abdelfattah Amor, the
Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, visited China in
November 1994, as did the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
in October 1997. However, Chinese authorities have yet to implement
their reasonable and modest recommendations.
Despite the fact that China became a party to
the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment in 1988, allegations of torture in detention
centres and prisonsparticularly in Tibet and Xinjianghave
not diminished. Negotiations for a first visit to China by Sir
Nigel Rodley, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, have thus
far produced no agreement as China insists upon special conditions.
While the EU should welcome the signing
of the MOU, it should also regret that the semi-annual progress
reports by the OHCHR senior official on programme implementation
are to be available only to the country concerned and to the Office
of the High Commissioner;
The EU should urge the High Commissioner
to be rigorous in providing a detailed assessment of progress,
paying particular attention to China's co-operation with the Commission's
thematic mechanisms. Indeed the High Commissioner should not hesitate
to cancel the agreement, as provided for in Article VII of the
MOU, should China's full cooperation not be forthcoming.
This year's session of the Commission on Human
Rights takes place at an extremely difficult moment for Colombia
and its people, and demands the increased attention and resources
of the Commission. Continuing a disturbing trend from 1999, the
average number of victims of political violence and deaths in
combat has risen from 12 to 14 per day. Over 228,000 people were
displaced in 2000. Of that number, 93,000 were forced to flee
between July and September alone, the result of a record 53 massacres,
most committed by paramilitary groups operating with the tolerance
or open support of the armed forces.
Guerrillas also committed a rising number of
violations of international humanitarian law, among them killings,
the taking of hostages, and the recruitment of children. In dozens
of attacks, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia employed
methods that caused avoidable civilian casualties in violation
of international humanitarian law. For their part, Camilist Union-National
Liberation Army guerrillas continued attacks on oil pipelines
and power pylons, and for prolonged periods prevented transit
on vital roads, converting thousands of detained travellers into
Human rights defenders, community leaders, trade
unionists and journalists continued to face threats and attacks.
During the first ten months of 2000, four human rights defenders
were killed and three "disappeared". Association of
Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared members Angel Quintero
and Claudia Patricia Monsalve were "disappeared" in
Medellin, Antioquia, on October 6. Since, the group reports constant
telephone threats, among them one where a women could be heard
weeping and begging for help as if she were being tortured. The
Barrancabermeja-based Regional Corporation for the Defence of
Human Rights also received dozens of telephone death threats from
August through September. In key areas of the country, human rights
monitoring has virtually stopped due to these kind of threats.
During her December visit, High Commissioner
for Human Rights made a point of calling on the government to
do more against paramilitary groups, which continue to operate
virtually unimpeded and often count of the co-operation and direct
collaboration of the Colombian military.
High ranking officers against whom there is
credible evidence of ties to paramilitary groups not only remain
in command, but have been promoted. Our evidence strongly suggests
that in fact, military officers remain on active duty despite
formal charges as a matter of course, and these cases are not
the exception, but the rule. The number of state agents named
in human rights related cases remains significant. Of the 1,419
people currently under investigation by the Attorney General,
over 20 per cent are members of the armed forces. This is only
slightly less than the number of guerrillas investigated for international
humanitarian law violations.
By the Colombian government's own admission,
most of the 388 individuals dismissed in October 2000 were let
go for reasons unrelated to human rights. To our knowledge, none
of the soldiers dismissed has since been arrested or is facing
Many paramilitary bases remained fixed and well
known, yet authorities did little or nothing to dismantle the
bases, prevent them from being used to commit crimes, or arrest
those responsible. One of the most well-known paramilitary bases
in Colombia is less than 10 minutes drive from the centre of Puerto
Asis, Putumayo. Although this base has been active for almost
one year, local authorities said there has been no attempt by
the government to shut it down.
Paramilitary activity increased in 2000 and
paramilitary groups were considered responsible for 93 massacres
in the first five months of the year. In Nueva Venecia, Magdalena,
paramilitaries are believed to have killed at least 38 people
on November 22, 2000. In areas of long-standing paramilitary presence,
reliable and abundant information shows that the security forces
continued to allow paramilitary operations with little or no evidence
of actions taken to curtail such activity. In the Uraba region,
for example, paramilitary groups continue to operate openly in
heavily militarised zones.
There has been virtually no attempt on the part
of the Colombian government to implement recommendations made
by the UN. Among them, the government has failed to enforce laws
governing jurisdiction over human rights crimes and continues
to allow the armed forces to adjudicate cases involving allegations
of serious human rights violations, in defiance of the clear intent
of the Constitutional Court Sentence No. C-358/97 to exclude these
cases from the military tribunals.
In a welcome decision, on July 21, 2000, the
Superior Judicial Council returned a case involving the forced
disappearance of Nydia Erika Bautista to civilian courts for trial.
For the first time, the CSJ fully embraced Sentence No. C358/97
and established a crucial precedent. Unfortunately, this precedent
has yet to be acted upon by the armed forces. So far, military
judges have refused to transfer key cases back to civilian courts
A military penal code reform gave the military
new powers to dismiss officers against whom there is credible
evidence of crimes against humanity, including genocide, torture,
and forced disappearance. However, the reform left out the crimes
most often alleged to have been committed by members of Colombia's
Armed Forces are not specifically excluded from military jurisdiction
by the Military Penal Code, among them extrajudicial execution,
rape and aiding and abetting the atrocities carried out by paramilitary
The Ministry of Defence has reported that 80
per cent of the arrest warrants issued by the Attorney General
against paramilitaries have not been enforced. This is largely
due to inaction by the military. At this writing, there are at
least 22 outstanding arrest warrants against Carlos Castaño,
the main paramilitary leader.
Since the Attorney General's Human Rights Unit
began work in 1995, dozens of prosecutors have been forced to
either abandon these cases, leave the institution, or go into
exile because of threats from active-duty officers and paramilitaries.
Far from demonstrating greater willingness to co-operate with
civilian judicial officials, we continue to receive evidence that
these investigators are routinely prevented from gaining access
to relevant information, implicated military personnel and official
records. Moreover, the Attorney General reported in September
that budget cuts implemented by President Pastrana are "dramatic"
and threaten to "paralyse" the work of the Human Rights
In December 2000, President Pastrana announced
that he intends to propose constitutional changes which would
reinstate powers previously granted to the armed forces, but abolished
by the 1991 Constitution. Of particular concern is that, in conjunction
with these increased powers, Pastrana proposes by constitutional
reform to introduce a "special procedure" in the Procuradur-«a
for investigations of armed forces' personnel for acts, which
take place during anti-kidnapping and anti-terrorism operations.
The "special procedure" would relax Procuradur-«a
oversight and disciplinary function. Human Rights Watch interprets
Pastrana's proposal as a disturbing sign that civilian investigators
will receive fewer, not greater guarantees for their work even
as the armed forces, which have yet to reform, may gain dangerous
Human Rights Watch urges the EU to sponsor a
resolution in which the Commission:
Deplores Colombia's failure to implement
recommendations made by the High Commissioner and urge Colombia
to do so;
Press for a dramatic expansion of
the work in Colombia of the Office of the High Commissioner by
increasing the number of permanent staff in the country and establishing
satellite offices in areas where Colombian defenders can no longer
operate, including the departments of Putumayo, Cauca, Valle,
Boli«var, Norte de Santander, Magdalena, Meta and Cesar.
The EU should also:
Pledge increased financial support
to the Colombia office of the High Commissioner and urge others
to do the same;
Urge the High Commissioner to renegotiate
the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner in Colombia
to include the power to transmit information on cases to international
and non-governmental organisations and the press as appropriate.
The Office should have the power to release statements summarising
its investigations of the available evidence on a case-by-case
Another country of concern is Cuba, whose government
has not moderated its arbitrary and repressive human rights practices.
In Cuba, human rights defenders, independent journalists, peaceful
opponents of the government, and members of unofficial non-governmental
organisations are frequently subject to short-term detentions,
house arrest, surveillance, arbitrary searches, evictions, travel
restrictions, politically-motivated dismissals from employment,
threats, and other forms of harassment. Some are prosecuted under
provisions of the Cuban Criminal Code that restrict basic rights
of freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and
of the press.
Among those currently incarcerated are Vladimiro
Roca and Oscar Eli«as Biscet Gonza«lez. Roca, a member
of the Internal Dissidents Working Group (Grupo de Trabajo
de la Disidencia Interna, GTDI), was sentenced in March 1999
to five years' imprisonment for "acts against the security
of the state". His prosecution stemmed from the views the
GTDI expressed in "The Homeland Belongs to All" (La
Patria es de Todos), an analytical paper on the Cuban economy,
human rights, and democracy. Biscet, the president of the Lawton
Human Rights Foundation, received a three-year prison sentence
on February 25, 2000, for dishonouring patriotic symbols, public
disorder, and instigating delinquency. He had carried out public
protests that included turning the Cuban flag upside-down and
carrying anti-abortion placards.
The 25 day detention in January and February
2001 of two Czech citizens, Jan Bubenik and Ivan Pilip, further
typifies the arbitrary and political nature of the Cuban criminal
justice system. Detained after meeting with Cuban dissidents,
the two Czechs were threatened with criminal prosecution and potentially
long terms of imprisonment.
The prosecution's apparent link to the Czech
Republic's sponsorship of a resolution on Cuba should be of particular
note to the Commission. In its first coverage of the arrests,
the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, made note
of "the infamous accusations [made] against Cuba in the Human
Rights Commission," asserting that the Czech government should
offer its apologies to Cuba.
Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to support
a resolution on Cuba so as to maintain public pressure on Cuba
to remedy its human rights problems.
The Democratic Republic of Congo
Laurent-Desire Kabila took control of the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1997 after a bloody war in which his
supporters and Rwanda and Ugandan allies killed tens of thousands
of civilians. He defended his regime in a second war after his
erstwhile allies, Rwanda and Uganda, invaded the country in 1998.
In this second war, Kabila's forces, like those of Rwanda, Uganda,
and the Congolese rebels allied with them, have all engaged in
indiscriminate attacks on civilians, extrajudicial executions,
rape, and destruction of property, with the result of massive
displacement of population. During his nearly four years in power,
Kabila regularly and ruthlessly violated the human rights of the
Congolese people, killing, torturing, imprisoning, and causing
the "disappearance" of any who he thought threatened
him or his regime. Among those who suffered most were political
opponents, leaders of civil society, human rights activists, and
Kabila handed out rights to exploit the vast
mineral riches of the country to his commercial and military cronies
while the economy as a whole disintegrated and ordinary people
lacked food, medicine, and other basic needs of life, particularly
in Kinshasa and other urban areas.
Despite his abuses, Kabila held on to some support
by portraying himself as a symbol of national resistance against
the foreign forces that occupied eastern DRC. He profited from
and his supporters encouraged hatred of the Tutsi, who were held
responsible for the misconduct of the Rwandan army and its Congolese
allies. He enjoyed the support of troops from his home region
of Katanga, whom he in turn favoured with regular pay and supplies.
But other units, ordinarily left unpaid, preyed on citizens to
With Kabila's death, a new government inherits
a nation wracked by a war that has pulled in six neighbouring
nations and spawned three major rebel movements as well as numerous
smaller armed opposition bands. International businessmen, many
of them based outside the region, have milked the wealth of the
DRC while their governments exert no effective pressure for peace.
Only an end to hostilities, the interdiction of incursions into
neighbouring countries, and the withdrawal of foreign forces offers
the possibility of averting worsening ethnic-based conflict, like
that now flaring in the Rwandan-dominated region of South Kivu
and in the Ugandan-dominated region of Ituri.
According to international humanitarian sources,
more than 1.7 million Congolese have died as a result of the war.
Kabila's death cannot guarantee an end to this carnage; that requires
commitment by all belligerents as well as by the international
Kabila's death does not clear the record but
rather creates the opportunity to insist on accountability for
the crimes committed under his authority. In 1997 the UN Secretary-General
sent a team to investigate war crimes committed by all parties
during the first DRC war. Kabila blocked their work, but the investigators
returned with enough information to conclude that combatants in
the first DRC war had committed crimes against humanity and perhaps
genocide. The Security Council asked the Congolese and Rwandan
governments to continue the inquiry, but they did nothing. After
the start of the second war, Kabila's government alleged that
its former ally Rwanda was responsible for obstructing the UN
investigation and pledged cooperation with future UN inquiries.
The UN did nothing.
In conclusion, the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) continues to be wracked by a devastating war, with all sides
responsible for abuses against civilians. The mainstream Rwanda
backed RCD-Goma rebel faction has been responsible for extrajudicial
executions often conducted in retaliation for raids by its opponents,
who also committed atrocities against civilians. In towns, RCD
soldiers routinely arrested and tortured dissidents and civil
society leaders. Uganda trained tens of thousands of young Congolese
to raise armies for its local allies, the Liberation Movement
for the Congo (MLC), and the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation
Movement (RCD-ML). Frequent leadership disputes in the RCD-ML
exacerbated ethnic tensions and reignited a deadly war in areas
under its control between the pastoralist Hema and the agriculturalist
Lendu people in which thousands of villagers were killed, and
tens of thousands were displaced. Rwandan and Ugandan forces fought
particularly destructive battles for the control of Kisangani
in mid 2000.
Of the 5,537 peacekeepers the UN planned to
send to the DRC under a United Nations Observer Mission in the
DRC (MONUC) to support a peace agreement the warring parties signed
in August 1999, only 224 unarmed military observers were deployed
by this writing. The Security Council on 14 December extended
MONUC's mandate to 15 June 2001, and called for the strengthening
of its human rights' component.
Roberto Garreton, the UN special rapporteur
on the DRC, visited the country in August at the invitation of
the government, the mainstream RCD-Goma faction, and the MLC.
The High Commissioner's Field Office, and its branch office in
Goma, played active roles in promoting and protecting human rights
in government and rebel areas.
Human Rights Watch urges the EU to sponsor a resolution
in which the Commission:
Strongly endorses the call for the
strengthening of the MONUC, and urges closer co-operation between
MONUC and the High Commissioner for Human Rights' Field Office
in the DRC;
Renews the mandate of the special
rapporteur and provides him, as well as the Field Office, with
the necessary resources for meaningful interventions;
Calls on the government of the DRC
1. End all interference with
basic human rights, as provided for by international and national
law, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and
freedom of assembly.
2. Order a review of persons
currently detained in prison and release those held without charge
or credible suspicion of guilt.
3. Investigate and prosecute
crimes against humanity as well as murders, "disappearances"
and other acts of state terrorism against citizens.
4. Declare and enforce respect
for all Congolese regardless of ethnic or regional origin.
5. End harassment of human
rights groups and obstruction of human rights investigations.
Sends a clear message to the governments
of Uganda and Rwanda that they are responsible for the security
of the population and humanitarian workers in areas under their
respective control in the DRC;
Calls on the Security Council to
address the urgent question of impunity for atrocities in the
Specifically, the EU should press for the establishment
of a UN Commission of Experts to investigate and determine responsibility
for grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the
DRC. This would implement a key 1998 recommendation of the Secretary-General's
Investigative Team in the DRC (SGIT) but also serve to address
and perhaps help halt on-going atrocities. The temporal mandate
of the Commission of Experts should thus reach back to 1993 to
complete the work the SGIT was prevented from doing and continue
to the present. The Commission of Experts could also recommend
to the Security Council an appropriate mechanism to bring to justice
persons responsible for violations.
There is an urgent need for serious reconsideration
of an international criminal tribunal for East Timor. Creation
of such a tribunal, recommended by the International Commission
of Inquiry on East Timor (ICIET) in its report of 31 January 2000,
was put on hold at the request of the Indonesian government while
it pursued justice in its own courts. More than one year after
the violence, however, Indonesia has done virtually nothing to
show that it is serious about prosecuting the most senior culpable
military and police officers. As of January 2001, even lower level
suspects have not yet been indicted by Indonesian authorities.
The United Nations and its member states have
a particular obligation to see that justice is done for the crimes
committed in East Timor in 1999. The UN's own investigation documented
a pattern of systematic and widespread intimidation and terror,
destruction of property, violence against women, forced displacement,
and attempts to destroy evidence. UN personnel, dependent on Indonesia
to provide security, themselves became targets of the violence
and helpless witnesses to the crimes.
Human Rights Watch has welcomed the first successful
prosecution by an East Timorese court of a militia member. A court
set up the United Nations Transitional Administration in East
Timor (UNTAET) sentenced Joao Fernades, 22, to 12 years in prison
in late January. The three judges on the panel were from East
Timor, Italy, and Burundi. Fernandes, a member of the Dadurus
Merah Putih militia, admitted to having murdered a village chief
who had sought refuge in the police station in Maliana, near the
West Timor border, in early September 1999. Some 40 people were
subsequently massacred in the police station. This trial is important
because it means the courts are finally functioning, and the backlog
of cases is finally being cleared, but all the key perpetrators
of the 1999 violence remain in Indonesia, and prosecutions there
are, as already mentioned, totally stalled. In East Timor, some
50 mostly low-ranking militia members have been detained, some
for more than a year. It has been a source of great frustration
inside East Timor that justice has proceeded so slowly. The courts
had to be created from scratch last year, and the investigation
process has been plagued by inadequate training of investigators,
changes in administrative structure, and lack of resources and
Fernandes was sentenced on ordinary murder charges,
not crimes against humanity. In order to make a case for the latter,
Dili-based investigators need to prove that the 1999 violence
was part of a larger plan or policy, and critical evidence rests
with witnesses on the Indonesian side of the border.
Still major obstacles remain to justice in Indonesian
courts. While it announced a list of suspects on 1 September 1999,
the Indonesian government has made no move to issue indictments
against them, let alone arrest warrants. A key militia leader,
Eurico Gutteres, is on trial in Jakarta, but on charges that have
nothing to do with the 1999 violence. He has been embraced as
a hero of national unity by several leading Jakarta politicians.
Moreover, the Indonesian Attorney-General's
office has said that it will not proceed with indictments until
an "ad hoc" human rights court is set up under legislation
passed last November. For those courts to be established, the
Indonesian parliament must make a formal request to the president,
and it shows no inclination to do so.
Accordingly, the EU should call for
the creation of an international tribunal and urge the Commission
to lay out a timetable for its formation, absent clear progress
in Indonesian and East Timorese courts. In his cover letter accompanying
release of the International inquiry report in January 2000, UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that he would "closely
monitor progress" of the response to the crimes in East Timor
to see that it is a "credible response in accordance with
international human rights principles." Indonesia has fallen
far short of this standard and it is time for a more determined,
direct international role in ensuring accountability. Otherwise,
the credibility of the UN system will be seriously compromised.
Indonesia has made further strides in protecting
human rights in 2000, but serious regional conflicts, a weak legal
system, and delicate civil-military relations pose ongoing obstacles.
Three areas wracked by conflictAceh, Irian Jaya (Papua),
and the Moluccasexperience widespread violations. Conditions
for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by communal conflict
in the Moluccas as well as East Timorese refugees in West Timor
remain precarious. Accountability for current and past abuses
is essential to long-term peace, but Indonesia has done little
to bring perpetrators to justice.
In dealing with the democratically elected government
of Indonesia and its serious human rights problems, the biggest
mistake is to stay silent. Sometimes, the argument for silence
stems from a belief that once a democratic election has taken
place, human rights problems will sort themselves out, or as in
Indonesia now, on assumption that military-civilian relations
are so fragile that human rights pressure could undermine the
But the human rights problems in Indonesia are
symptomatic of larger problems that go to the core of economic
and political security, and the international community does no
favours to anyone by keeping quiet. Indeed human rights should
not be the only issue on the policy agenda with Indonesia, but
at the same time, it should not be seen as a fringe issue. Failure
to address human rights problems can lead to the kind of political
unrest that discourages investment, and Aceh is only the most
obvious example of where the central government's failure to heed
calls for justice has drastically worsened the security situation.
Widespread violations took place despite the
"humanitarian pause" agreed to by rebels and government
representatives in May 2000, with scores of new civilian casualties.
Peaceful advocates of a referendum on Aceh's political future
became the target of security forces; human rights activists and
humanitarian aid providers were frequently harassed and in several
cases were killed. Eyewitness testimony pointed to military involvement
in the murder of three humanitarian aid workers in December; the
brutal murder of human rights lawyer Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, whose
body was found in September, remains unsolved. In a letter sent
on 22 November 2000, five CHR experts noted a "pattern of
serious human rights violations" in Aceh.
The mishandling of Aceh by successive Indonesian
governments has been colossal. Helping resolve the conflict there
should be a top priority of the EU at the upcoming Human Rights
Commission, for economic and political reasons, as well as in
the interests of protecting human rights. Several EU member states
have provided support to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue
(CHD) there, the organisation that brokered the "humanitarian
pause" between the government and GAM, the Free Aceh movement.
For all the violence taking place in Aceh, there are some extraordinary
efforts going on in the field, out of the public eye, in terms
of dialogue and training that could have a major impact if CHD's
work is allowed to continue and expand. Support for CHD needs
to continue and in co-ordination with other donors, the EU should
work with Indonesian officials, particularly in the defence ministry,
to persuade them that continued dialogue is vital.
The EU must tread very carefully in the extremely
delicate area of Christian-Muslim relations. The Moluccan conflict,
with 4,000 dead and about a half million displaced, has already
helped spark or exacerbate conflicts elsewhere, including in Sulawesi.
The distributing failure of the Wahid government to deal with
Laskar Jihad forces in Ambon and incidents like the highly co-ordinated
string of 18 bombings of churches across the country on Christmas
Eve will undoubtedly serve to reinforce the impression of beleaguered
Christians under siege from an implacable fundamentalist Muslin
foe. Had there not been hundreds of thousands of Muslim victims
of this conflict as well; had there not been a disastrously wrongheaded
approach by security forces, and had there not been complex local
factors rooted not in religion but in political and historical
factors, the conflict would not have reached the level it has.
While pressing the cause of prosecuted Christians the international
community must give due recognition to other dimensions of the
conflict. Any efforts to ensure accurate and impartial monitoring
and reporting of this communal conflict are critically important.
Use of lethal force against protestors, arbitrary
arrests and torture of suspects have exacerbated anti-Jakarta
sentiment. In late 2000, the government began to take a hard line
against activists, temporarily detaining Johannes Bonay, head
of Elsham, Papua's leading human rights organisation and resurrecting
discredited Soeharto-era laws to arrest peaceful advocates of
independence. There were also new reports of severe torture of
suspects in policy custody.
Increasing the capacity of civilian administration,
in consultation with local NGOs and church figures is important.
Accountability for the past in important, especially with regard
to the Mapduma operations in 1996 and the Biak killings of 1999.
The international community has an interest in seeing that the
flawed decentralisation programme worksit has the potential
to go badly awry, not just in terms of corruption but in the breakdown
of services or in competition of local elites that could exacerbate
communal violence. Technical assistance in this area is going
to be critical.
The Indonesian government must disarm former
militia members in West Timor, punish those responsible for the
terror in East Timor last year and for criminal acts committed
in West Timor, and provide protection and assistance such that
all refugees are able to choose free from coercion whether to
return to East Timor or be resettled in Indonesia. Under international
pressure, Indonesia has taken some steps to address the crisis,
but as of the start of 2001 many refugees continued to be effectively
trapped by the same forces responsible for the 1999 carnage in
Human Rights Watch urges the EU to sponsor a
resolution calling on Indonesia to:
Prosecute past atrocities in Aceh,
East Timor, the Moluccas, Papua and West Timor as well as other
crimes that occurred during the Soeharto era.
Continue the dialogue process in
Aceh and extend support to the monitoring and security teams operating
there under terms of the "humanitarian pause".
Remove outside militias from Moluccas
but take steps to ensure that full security is guaranteed to members
of both Muslim and Christian communities there.
Invite the Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur
on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on violence against Women,
the Special Representative on human rights defenders and the Working
Group on enforced involuntary disappearances.
Remove restrictions on access by
journalists to Aceh, Papua and the Moluccas and facilitate efforts
by outside organisations to assist internally displaced persons
in these areas and elsewhere in Indonesia.
Comply fully with UN Security Council
Resolution 1319 calling for "immediate and effective action"
to resolve the ongoing crisis in West Timor.
Finally, the Commission should recommend the
re-establishment of an office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights in Jakarta that includes a clear monitoring function.
Israel/Palestinian Authorities/Occupied Territories
Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in
the West Bank and Gaza since late September have worsened an already
serious human rights crisis in the territories controlled by Israel
and by the Palestinian Authority. Israel, moreover, has rejected
any co-operation, as mandated by the resolution of the October
2000 special session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, with
the mechanisms of the Commission and has refused to co-operate
with the special panel established by the High Commissioner to
investigate serious human rights violations. The following represent
the areas of most pressing immediate concern.
Excessive or Indiscriminate Use of Force
The most serious abuses have been committed
by Israeli security forces. Israeli police and security forces
frequently have used excessive lethal force against unarmed demonstrators.
Research by Israeli and international human rights investigators
as well as comments by Israeli officials suggest that in many
instances Israeli forces were pursuing a policy of shooting to
maim or kill. As the mass demonstrations and confrontations have
given way to attacks by armed Palestinians on Israeli military
and settler targets, Israeli security forces have responded with
indiscriminate, often massive force against populated Palestinian
neighbourhoods, resulting in civilian casualties and destruction.
Targeted, Extrajudicial, Arbitrary, or Summary
Human Rights Watch has investigated a number
of suspicious killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli security
forces. In several instances the testimony we have obtained from
eye witnesses suggests that these may have been arbitrary killings.
IDF officials have repeatedly stated that as a matter of policy
they do not investigate killings that take place during "warlike
situations". Israel has also proclaimed and implemented a
policy of "liquidation" against Palestinians it alleges
to have been responsible for planning or carrying out attacks
on Israeli soldiers or civilian settlers; at least nine such killings
have been carried out since November, and some six Palestinians
who were not intended targets have also been killed in such attacks.
Israeli officials have argued that during periods of armed conflict
individuals engaged in such activities are legitimate military
targets. However, Israel's lack of transparency regarding the
process by which it determines that a specific individual constitutes
a legitimate military target raises serious concern that civilians
are among those being targeted for death. These concerns are heightened
by the fact that in several cases in areas under direct Israeli
control, Israeli forces have not attempted to arrest suspected
militants but have simply killed them. In at least one other case
in which Israeli forces claim that they were seeking to arrest
a suspect, the person sought was killed in suspicious circumstances.
The Palestinian Authority has continued to impose
and inflict capital punishment following summary and unfair trials,
most recently against Palestinians accused of "collaboration"
with Israeli intelligence services in carrying out Israel's "liquidation"
of Palestinian suspects. Allam Bani Oda and Madji Mikkawi were
executed on 13 January 2001, after being convicted of collaboration,
and at least two other men, including 18 year-old Hussamaddin
Moussa Hmaeid Eslini, who is described by his family as "simpleminded",
have also been sentenced to death and are awaiting execution.
Collective Punishment against the Civilian Population:
Since early October Israel has vastly increased
restrictions on Palestinian movement within the West Bank and
Gaza as well as into Israel and Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem.
These closures, curfews, and other restrictions have resulted
in massive losses of income and impeded Palestinian access to
civilian necessities including medical care, education, and basic
foodstuffs. In areas adjacent to settlements, such as Hebron in
the West Bank and the al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis in the Gaza
Strip, more severe and unrelenting restrictions are in place to
facilitate settler movement, resulting in a state of protracted
siege on the Palestinian population.
Palestinian attacks on Settlements and Settlers:
The current unrest has included regular armed
attacks by Palestinians on settlements in the West Bank and Gaza,
and on settlers travelling in those areas. Palestinian fire on
settlements has caused little physical damage and few casualties,
but attacks on settlers travelling outside the settlements have
become more numerous and more lethal. The Palestinian Authority
appears to have failed to investigate or prosecute cases of attacks
by armed Palestinians that have led to deaths or serious injuries
among Israeli civilians.
Attacks by Israeli settlers on unarmed Palestinians
Israeli settlers have attached Palestinians
and Palestinian property with virtual impunity, even in cases
that have resulted in death or serious injury. In a number of
cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, the Israeli Defence
Forces (IDF) did not intervene to stop settler attacks, and in
one case responded to the settler assaults by themselves attacking
the Palestinian victims. Human Rights Watch is concerned by the
degree and kinds of co-ordinations between the IDF and militant
settlers, many of whom are reservists, have access to IDF-supplied
automatic weapons and ammunition stored in settlements, and perform
their IDF service in the areas where they live.
Settlement-related destruction and confiscation
Land confiscation for settlement expansion and
bypass roads and punitive destruction of Palestinian property
adjacent to settlements appears to be increasing. In some instances,
individual settlers have destroyed Palestinian property on an
apparently ad hoc basis. In other cases the destruction and confiscation
is carried out by the IDF, ostensibly in order to prevent access
to lands or facilities in which demonstrators or militants might
hide. According to a study by the Palestinian Centre for Human
Rights in Gaza, between 29 September 2000 and 15 January 2001,
Israeli forces razed more than 6,290 dunun of Palestinian lands
in Gaza Strip alone. Three-fourths of the land razed was agricultural
land, much of it planted with fruit-bearing trees that take years
to mature. Eighty-eight Palestinian homes on the razed land were
demolished in the process, as were numerous other structures,
including income-generating greenhouses and livestock facilities.
Arbitrary arrests and detention:
Since November Israeli has arrested increasing
numbers of Palestinians in areas under its control. Information
received by Human Rights Watch indicates that these arrests follow
earlier patterns of night-time raids by undercover units. Where
individuals and their families are frequently beaten or humiliated
and their property destroyed. There are also reports that some
of those detained have been subjected to position abuse-ie, forced
to spend long periods of time in painful positionsduring
The Palestinian Authority has reportedly released
a number of Palestinian activists who had been detained without
charge or trial, apparently as a result of Israeli/PA security
Human Rights Watch urges the EU to:
Be actively engaged on behalf of
a Commission resolution that seriously addresses these human rights
and humanitarian law violations and concerns:
Insist that Israel as well as the
Palestinian Authority co-operate with the mechanisms of the Commission
and with the special panel established by the Commission at its
special session of October 2000;
Promote a request from the Commission
to the UN Security Council to authorise the establishment of an
international observer mission to monitor and report on human
rights and humanitarian law violations in Gaza and the West Bank;
Deplore Israel's systematic resort
to excessive use of lethal force, collective punishment, and apparent
policy of "liquidations";
Deplore the Palestinian Authority's
continued imposition of the death penalty and trials before military
and state security courts that do not meet international fair
trial standards, as well as its failure to prevent attacks by
armed Palestinians against Israeli civilians and civilian targets.
Despite the victory of reformist supporters
of President Khatami in parliamentary elections in February 2000,
the past year was marked by severe setbacks in the human rights
field. Independent newspapers and magazines, a leading force for
the reform movement and the most visible sign of human rights
progress, have been closed down en masse. Leading writers, journalists,
editors and publishers are among the dissident thinkers and reform
leaders imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The arbitrary and unjust sentences imposed by a revolutionary
court on 13 January against participants at a civil forum in Berlin
underscores the seriousness of the human rights crisis in Iran.
Conservatives remain in control of the judiciary and the armed
forces, and they have been able to block efforts to promote reform
and respect for the rule of law. Religious minorities, notably
Christians, Jews and Sunni Muslims, remain subject to discrimination
and persecution. Iran's Jewish community was severely shaken by
the prosecution of ten Jews from Shiaz on unsubstantiated charges
of having illegal contacts with a hostile foreign power. The trial
took place behind closed doors in April and May 2000. Iran's Baha'is
continue to be the target of intense persecution.
The EU should sponsor a resolution
in which the Commission stresses that the deterioration in the
human rights situation in the Islamic Republic over the period
since the previous session of the Commission warrants the continuation
of the mandate of the Commission's Special Representative on human
rights in Iran.
At its 56th session the Commission adopted an
EU sponsored resolution deploring abuses in Chechnya calling on
Russia to take specific action to investigate violations of human
rights and international humanitarian law. The Commission urged
Russia to invite five UN thematic mechanisms to visit Chechnya
and instructed these mechanisms to report to the Commission and
to the General Assembly. The centrepiece of the resolution was
a requirement that Russia establish "a national, broad-based
and independent commission of inquiry to investigate promptly
alleged violations of human rights and breaches of international
humanitarian law committed in the Republic of Chechnya in order
to establish the truth and identify those responsible, with a
view to bringing them to justice and preventing impunity."
The resolution also urged Russian co-operation with the Organisation
for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council for Europe,
the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other international
and regional organisations.
Human Rights Watch maintained a continuous research
presence in Ingushetia from November 1999 through May 2000 and
we have conducted research missions to the region and monitored
the conflict from our Moscow office since then. We have exhaustively
documented war crimes and other violations of international human
rights and humanitarian law committed by both parties to the conflict,
but overwhelmingly by Russian forces. These include the mass,
summary execution of civilians, arbitrary detention and subsequent
beating and torture of detainees, the indiscriminate bombardment
of densely populated areas, systematic looting, and rape. Chechen
forces have violated humanitarian law by using civilians as human
shields, hostage taking, summarily executing servicemen they have
captured, physically abusing civilians and violating civilian
In October 2000, we released a report detailing
the ongoing cycle of torture and extortion faced by thousands
of Chechens whom Russian forces had detained in Chechnya. The
report documents how Russian troops have arbitrarily detained
thousands of Chechens on suspicion of collaboration with rebel
fighters. "Welcome to hell" is how guards at eg the
Chernokozovo detention facility would greet detainees, before
forcing them to undergo a hail of blows by baton-wielding guards.
Most detainees were released only after their families managed
to pay large bribes to Russian officials. Others never came back.
Resolution 2000/58 represented perhaps the broadest
consensus among international actors that impunity would not be
countenanced in Chechnya. However, Russia has rejected the resolution
and refused to implement its chief requirements in a transparent
manner. While the Council of Europe has three staff in the region,
their mandate is limited and the OSCE remains blocked. Russia
has invited only two thematic mechanisms to visit Chechnya and
neighbouring regions (the Special Rapporteur on violence against
women and Special Representative of the Secretary General for
children and armed conflict). These thematic mechanisms have been
informed that their visits can only take place "in general
exercise" of their mandates and not in connection with the
resolution. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions, Special Rapporteur on torture and Special
Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced
persons are still waiting for an invitation. The invitation to
the High Commissioner following her first visit to Russia/Chechnya
has never been honoured. But most significantly, Russia has failed
to establish a national commission of inquiry or to pursue any
other serious investigation of alleged atrocities committed in
Chechnya, including more than 125 summary executions and the arbitrary
detention and torture of hundreds. These violations continue;
in Chechnya today, civilians no longer hide from bombs, but from
men in black masks. Russian troops continue, in the course of
their duties, to engage in widespread looting and burning of homes,
arbitrary detentions, torture, extortion, and disappearances.
The Russian government has established mechanisms
by which victims may report abuses; while welcome this is no substitute
for the accountability demanded by the Commission. The procuracy
has undertaken a few investigations, but has neglected the worst
crimes, failing to interview witnesses, exhume bodies, or gather
other crucial evidence. Russian authorities clearly have no intention
of holding accountable those responsible for these crimes.
The EU sponsored a resolution on Chechnya last
year. It is therefore critically important that it follows up
with another critical resolution in which the Commission:
Expresses grave concern about continued
human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by Russian
forces and Chechen rebels to Chechnya;
Condemns Russia's failure to co-operate
with UN mechanisms, the failure to establish an independent commission
of inquiry and the failure to undertake sincere efforts to hold
accountable those responsible for crimes committed in the context
of the Chechen conflict, as called for in last year's resolution;
Calls for the establishment of an
international commission of inquiry, mandated to investigate and
document atrocities committed by both sides to the conflict in
Chechnya. Such an international commission should be impartial
and independent and operate in a manner consistent with the general
principles outlined by the High Commissioner in her April 2000
background note on national commissions of inquiry.
Over the past year, the government of Sudan,
under the leadership of President (Lt Gen) Omar El Bashir, intensified
the 18 year-old war against the south and other marginal areas.
It doubled its number of bombings hitting civilian targets in
the war against the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)
and other rebel groups; prevented relief food from reaching needy
civilians; denied free assembly and speech to its citizens; continued
to arbitrarily hold people in prolonged detention and torture
them; and abused children's rights, particularly through its military
and logistical support for the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA), which held an estimated 6,000 Ugandan children captive
on government-controlled Sudanese territory. The SPLA's forces
continued to loot food (including relief provisions) from the
civilian populationsometimes with civilian casualtiesrecruit
child soldiers, and abuse some civilians. On both sides, impunity
for human rights and humanitarian law violations remained the
Fighting spread further into the southern area
of Western Upper Nile, inhabited mainly by the African Nuer. The
government continued its campaign of creating a cordon sanitaire
around new oil fields by forcibly displacing the Nuer population.
In addition to aerial bombardment and scorched-earth attacks by
government troops, the government armed Nuer proxies to fight
against anti-government Nuer. The government routinely banned
UN relief aircraft from Western Upper Nile and other areas on
security grounds, although its military campaigns have produced
tens of thousands of displaced civilians, who have been burned
and looted out of their homes by pro-government Nuer militia and
In the rebel-held Nuba mountains, the government
of Sudan promised access to the UN for humanitarian needs in 1999,
but for more than a decade the government has, through disingenuous
excuses, impeded the provision of aid on a regular basis. The
government of Sudan pursued an even harsher war of displacement
of 2000 in an effort to squeeze civilians out of their homes in
rebel areas and thus declare that none were left to receive UN
aid all while "negotiating" access with the UN. The
need of the civilians has only increased on account of these government
of Sudan human rights abuses.
Oil revenues are admittedly being used by the
government of Sudan to build munitions factories making oil at
once a motivation and a means for expanding the conflict into
new potential oil fields in the south.
The civil war in Sudan has put an enormous strain
on the country's civilian population, particularly women an children.
Unfortunately, no credible prospects for peace are on the horizon.
In fact, the latest round of talks has failed to bring the parties
to the conflict any closer to agreement on basic issues such as
the question of state and religion. Both parties to the conflict
have openly violated their respective unilateral declarations
In resolution 2000/27, the Commission on Human
Rights expressed deep concern regarding the impact of the current
armed conflict on the situation of human rights and its adverse
effect on the civilian people, in particular women and children.
The Commission called on Sudan to respect and protect human rights
and fundamental freedoms, and to respect fully international law,
thereby facilitating the voluntary return, repatriation and reintegration
of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes. The
Commission also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur
on the situation of human rights in Sudan. However, Sudan has
clearly rejected the resolution and refused to comply with its
obligations under international law.
Human Rights Watch call on the EU
to sponsor a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur
for another year and addressing all the principal abuses in Sudan,
with deadlines for the government of Sudan to comply with.
Since late 1996, the Rwandan government has
ordered tens of thousands of persons to leave their homes and
take up residence in officially-designated "villages"
known as imidugudu. In some cases homeowners have been
obliged to destroy their own homes before moving to the imidugudu;
in others landholders have been obliged to cede their fields to
serve as building sites. Persons unwilling to move and those critical
of the policy have been subject to harassment, imprisonment, and
fines by government officials.
Established without any form of popular consultation
or act of law, this policy of rural resettlement decreed a drastic
change in the way of life of approximately 94 per cent of the
population who had previously lived in dispersed homesteads, near
the fields they cultivated and where they pastured their livestock.
Households headed by women, children, and the elderly appear to
have suffered most from this policy because they are least able
to provide the resources needed to build new houses in the imidugudu.
Thousands of persons who once lived in solid homes surrounded
by their fields now live in temporary shelters made of leaves,
wood, and bits of plastic. Many of them have to walk further each
day to get to their fields, to fetch water or firewood, or to
go to school.
The Special Representative of the High Commissioner,
Mr Michael Moussalli, drew attention to the controversial nature
of this rural resettlement policy in his February 2000 report.
He described having visited a resettlement site where 20 families
complained that they had been forced to destroy their houses and
move against their will.
The government originally envisioned rural resettlement
as part of a larger economic development policy to concentrate
landholding in the hands of a smaller part of the population.
Under this plan, many former landholders would become salaried
labourers on the land of others or would work in some other occupation.
When hundreds of thousands of refugees returned
to Rwanda in late 1996 and early 1997, the government linked rural
resettlement to the housing crisis precipitated by their return.
Officials often mentioned the Arusha Accord on the return of refugees
as justification for rural resettlement when in fact the relevant
provisions of the Accord refer only to resettlement of returned
refugees in imidugudu and say nothing about enforcing this
living pattern on other Rwandans.
Following an insurgency in northwestern Rwanda
in 1997-98, the government implemented rural resettlement in that
region, justifying it in part on the grounds of "national
security". A similar justification has since been used in
other parts of Rwanda where insurgents never threatened the population.
Even in 1997-1998 in the northwest, such a justification had little
merit and any semblance of need for such measures in the interest
of national security has long since ended. The Rwandan government
itself has repeatedly stressed the complete security, which now
prevails in the country. Any restriction of freedom to choose
one's residence because of national security is permissible only
for the duration of the crisis and so is necessarily temporary
but the Rwandan government has stated clearly that relocation
to imidugudu is meant to be permanent.
Speaking of the right to housing as specified
in the ICESCR, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights held that "instances of forced eviction are prima
facie incompatible with the requirements of the Covenant and can
only be justified in the most exceptional circumstances, and in
accordance with international law." According
to article 12 of the ICCPR, the state may interfere with the freedom
of movement and choice of housing only on the grounds of "national
security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals
or the rights and freedoms of others." None of these justifications
is relevant in this case.
A state may restrict the right to freedom of
movement and of choice of residence, but only as provided by law.
requirement that all rural dwellers live in imidugudu resulted
from a simple decision by the Council of Ministers and was implemented
by ministerial instructions. It was never formalised in law or
examined as required by the Constitutional Court.
In addition, the Arusha Accords guaranteed refugees
who returned to Rwanda the right to settle in a place of their
choice, provided they did not violate the rights of others. By
compelling those who would prefer to live elsewhere to live in
imidugudu, the government violates its own law as provided in
protocol V, article 2, of the Accords.
Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands,
of homeless persons moved voluntarily to imidugudu in order to
benefit from houses which have been built or housing materials
that have been provided for them there. But satisfying their needs
did not require dispossessing tens of thousands of others from
their homes nor does it excuse the violation of the rights of
those forced to move against their will.
The EU should ensure that the Commission
addresses the persistent violations of human rights and rule of
law in Rwanda and call for enhanced engagement by appropriate
Sierra Leone continues to be plagued by widespread
human rights abuses and the pervasive climate of impunity. While
the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) continues to commit the overwhelming
majority of atrocitiesincluding rape, murder, abduction,
forced conscription, and amputation, as well as attacks on Guinean
villages and civiliansserious abuses are also committed
by the Civil Defence Forces (CDF, primarily the Kamajors and Gbithis)
including rape, systematic extortion, looting of villages, commandeering
of vehicles, recruitment of children, and torture and summary
execution of suspected rebels.
The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL)
is currently over 12,000 members strong, yet, despite the provisions
in its current mandate, its role in protecting civilians has been
The EU should ensure that the Commission
focuses attention on the need for UNAMSIL to protect civilians;
Specifically, the Commission should
reaffirm UNAMSIL's obligation under its current mandate to protect
civilians and to ensure that this be established as an immediate
and primary concern of troops on the ground. UNAMSIL should be
required to take all necessary measures to protect civilians within
its areas of deployment, and to use its best efforts to expand
the zone within which it is able to protect civilians.
The human rights component of UNAMSIL has been
set by the Security Council at 14. Yet, the unit has not reached
its full deployment.
The EU should urge that the UNAMSIL
human rights component is fully staffed and deployed. UNAMSIL's
efforts to promote protection for civilians would also be greatly
improved if the work of the human rights unit were better integrated
into the larger UNAMSIL mission;
The EU should thus press the Commission
to ensure that the human rights unit is strengthened with the
necessary mandate and resources to enable it to investigate and
publicly report on human rights abuses by all sides to the conflict,
and that its findings and recommendations are given due weight
by UNAMSIL's military and political component.
The establishment of the Special Court for Sierra
Leone remains an urgent priority, yet progress toward establishing
the court has been extremely slow.
The EU should support the expeditious
establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and reaffirm
that there can be no impunity for perpetrators of war crimes and
crimes against humanity by any side to this conflict.
Three years ago, the government of President
Islam Karimov unleashed an unrelenting campaign against pious
Muslims who practised their religion outside state controls. State
authorities arrested thousands of independent Muslims on arbitrary
grounds, often solely on the basis of outward acts of piety, such
as regular prayer at home or Koranic study. The campaign unfolded
in an environment in which the government had for years denied
basic rightsto freedom of association, assembly, speech,
consciencein most sectors of society. It intensified following
the February 1999 bombings in Tashkent.
Two years of Human Rights Watch field research
has documented the torture and violation of basic rightsto
due process rights and to freedom of consciencesuffered
by hundreds of Muslim detainees. State authorities hold them in
incommunicado detention and deny them access to counsel. Police
torture is a standard feature of Uzbekistan's criminal justice
system; those arrested in the crackdown have been tortured by
police or security agents to coerce confessions or to incriminate
those with whom they have prayed or studied the Koran. In the
past two years alone, at least 15 people have died in custody
due to torture. Judges use coerced testimony in patently unfair
trials to convict independent Muslims on charges of distributing
religious literature, membership of illegal religious organisations,
or "anti-constitutional activity." Independent Muslims
who pray in prison are punished with beatings and solitary confinement.
Under a publicly announced policy, families
are held accountable for the actions of relatives suspected of
illegal religious activity; consequently, they are often detained,
held as hostages, threatened with torture, or are themselves tortured.
Local governments mobilise their communities in "hate rallies,"
reminiscent of the Stalin era, to intimidate and ostracise those
suspected of affiliation with independent Muslims.
Last Summer's armed clashes between the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan and the Uzbek and Kyrgz military brought
closer international attention to the region's security problems.
But international institutions largely failed to take into account
the human rights crisis as a factor that further endangers the
security of Uzbekistan and other countries in the region.
Because the government does not tolerate free
media of any kind, genuine opposition political parties, or most
independent human rights organisations, accountability for these
massive violations and hope for improvements, however incremental,
rest solely with the international community. Human Rights Watch
commends the interest in Uzbekistan shown by the High Commissioner's
office, manifested in part by requests from two special mechanisms
for invitations from the government of Uzbekistan for visits.
Broader Commission engagement would hold the promise of more comprehensive
and concerted effort toward improvements in a disastrous situation.
Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to:
Sponsor a resolution in which the
Commission takes note of the severe and intransigent deterioration
of human rights in Uzbekistan, and establishes the mandate for
a Special Rapporteur to investigate abuses in that country;
The stated commitments of the new governments
in Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to abide by
the terms of the Dayton-Paris Peace Accords have raised new hope
that peace may take permanent hold in this volatile region. Nonetheless,
five years after the accords were signed, the mark of ethnic cleaning
remains, with more than one million people still displaced. With
each year, their return to their homes of originthe promise
held out in the peace accordsbecomes more difficult. Last
year saw the first large movements of displaced persons back to
their pre-war communities in which they now make up a minority
population. To ensure further significant returns in 2001 a concerted
effort is needed not only to provide the necessary financial resources,
but also to monitor and guarantee the rights of returnees throughout
Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to support
the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the former
Yugoslavia and to emphasis the importance of his monitoring and
facilitating the returns process. Because the displacement in
Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
is inextricably interconnected, Human Rights Watch believes that
in order to maximise the role to be played by the Rapporteur in
facilitating return, the geographical scope of the mandate should
1 United Nations, Committee on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 4 (1991) of the Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to adequate
housing (article 11(1) of the Covenant), 12 December 1991, paragraph
ICCPR, article 12(3). Back