Report On Mission

REPORT ON MISSION 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights Geneva, 15 March to 23 April 2004


by Julien Randriamasivelo

Introduction: - During my stay in Geneva and in accordance with my mission, I attended all plenaries as well as other relevant meetings from 29 March to 1st April. I met some members of AAPSO delegation.

Altough everything went well as for the necessary procedures for participation at the Session, confusion occured about who will speak on behalf of AAPSO on the Items 10 and 11. Dr Massouna Ali was on the list of both items.

But discussion had been engaged between me and Mr R. Ali Khan, Massouna's husband and the first person I met from the Indian delegation led by Dr Srivastava to make change in the list. As a result, my name was put on the list for item 10 instead of Dr Massouna's. But the day after and for my great surprise and disappointment, Mr Ali Khan told me he had consultation with Dr Srivastava who said also to me had talk with Mr Vidyasekera in Cairo, so accordingly Dr Massouna will speak on this Item 10, a change which was for me questionable. Such a situation had disappointed me very much as I worked hard to make statement in this Item 10. My first impression was that Dr Srivastava was there in Geneva to "lead the AAPSO delegation".

My intended  intervention  on item 10 was divided in three parts: Situation of Palestinians in the occupied territory; The policy of IMF/World Bank and its effects on economic, social and cultural life of developing countries; and the Case of Guantanamo Bay. As for the Item 11 and because of extremely delayed opportunity for NGO to take the foor, with very long list of speakers, I never get this opportunity to speak since the list with my name went at the earliest on Friday, possibly in the afternoon, the day of my departure to Cairo.

Nonetheless, if I failed to speak in the plenary, I  managed to intervene in five  extra-plenary meetings (during the lunch time), namely on:

a) The Human Rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
b) Briefing by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food;
c) Briefing by the Independent expert on Structural Adjustement Policies and foreign Debt;
d) The right to Water;
e) Briefing by the Special Rapporteur on Torture
( details elaborated below).

I.- Since I attended only part of the whole 60th session, it was difficult to make an overall assessment of the 60th session itself. As usual, the procedure of the plenary meeting consists of hearing of statements made by governments ( members) followed by observers and NGOs. The hearing of persons invited ( Special Rapporteurs) were followed by remarks from the assistance.

During the plenary sessions, many delegates raised different issues related to respect of human rights as well as their violations, such as education, health, water, housing, illiteracy, food security, democracy, poverty, corruption, impunity, the situation of prisoners, torture, detention, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, compensation and reparation for the victims of human rights violations, etc..

As usual, the government pronouncements and statements always focused on the positive aspects as they said of their policy as regard human rights issues, as well as their partnership with the IMF/World Bank, welcomed or made remarks on the report of Special Rapporteurs. Many NGO expressed concerns about the lack of improvement in health, education, etc. ,humanitarian aid which did not reach the needy, the neferious effects of adjustement policy, the  corruption, impunity, the effects of globalisation on economic, social and cultural rights, the Israeli human rights violations and massacres against the Palestinians.

Fierce criticism was addressed to the Special Rapporteur on  Education by the Chinese delegation of not to have reported with objectivity and ignoring the Chinese tremendous achievements in this field.

Cuba got strong applause from the assistance when the representative of the Federation of Cuban Women, Mrs Megali Llort,  mother of one of five Cubans incarcerated in the US prison, spoke with vigour. The Cubans were very active. A lot of documentations were distributed. They held special meetings. Their move was understandable and seen as a counter-attack directed to the US stand vis-à-vis Cuba.

II.-During the lunch time of March 29, I attended the meeting on "Human Rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo". My first oral statement at this meeting concerned the attempt of coup d'Etat perpetrated two days before ( 27 March), which I heard from Radio France International. I asked the convenors of the meeting to give some light about this event.

My second statement was about the situation of Child Soldiers. I made a short exposé about the matter including their involvement in the massacres and killings as well as the problem of their reinsertion in the society.

In response to my statement about the coup attempt the chairman said that military assailants had failed in their attempt and they were already detained. They denied any death during the assault. In addition, they gave an assessment of the situation prevailing in DR of Congo, about the precarious peace and frail cohabitation with ex-rebels. One of them, Jean Pierre Bemba, for example, was accompanied by 300 guards for his protection. As for the situation of child soldiers, there were still some children in army groups, about 30.000, but many have been demobilised and already joined the society. Their reinsertion needed means and appeal was launched to the international community to help in this regard

- On 30 March, a briefing by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Mr Jean Ziegler, was held. I spoke during the meeting and said that there is a condemnable practice consisting of using food as weapon, such case occured mainly in Africa. In response to my remark, Mr Ziegler confirmed my remark and took exemple of Sierra Leone, where Charles Taylor, ex-president of Liberia, was very active in fueling the conflict by selling arms procured from diamonds. He remembered also the case of US influencing government policy in return of food aid.

On the same day ( 30 March), I attended the briefing by the independent expert, Mr Bernard Andrew Nyamwaya Mudho, on structural adjustment policies and foreign debt. My statement concerned the group IMF/World Bank policy in the process of globalization, as a cause among others of the widening gap between the riches and the poors which I said was the result of the failure of the group's policy. I made the proposal to create a New System of International Finance Management to be put directly under the aegis of the United Nations, thus revising the agreement concluded between the United Nations and the group. This agreement protects the latter from the interference of the United Nations. The chairman of the meeting was impressed by the proposal which he said was very interesting. He recognized the necessity of change in the debt problem since the classic  way and means did not work on this respect.

- On 31 March, I attended the meeting on the Right to Water. My remark focused on the situation of the riparian countries which border the Nile. I put the question of how the convenors conceived the water issue related to the Nile River. They remind that there was a UN Convention which put as a priority the necessity to consider  the essential needs. He also reminded the agreement between Egypt and Sudan 50 years ago. Now, they said there is a beginning of cooperation, for example between Egypt and Ethiopia regarding this issue. Conference of riparian countries was expected.

- On 1st April, I attended the Briefing of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr Theo Van Boven. I put only one question: What the Special Rapporteur thinks of solution to deal with the ambiguities surrounding the detention camp of Guantanamo Bay? As a response, he said that the Special rapporteur did not have access to this camp which needed the consent of American authorities. No permission received. We sent allegations and repeatedly asked for access, but failed. Similar camp exist in Afghanistan.

Unlike in the plenary, the meetings during lunch time offered the participants the privilege to be answered to their statements or questions.

In all of these extra-plenary meetings ( except in the last one on Torture for the reason I didn't know), a paper with list of participants and their organisations was circulated. Those who took the floor presented himself/herself and their organisations they represented.

Documents of AAPSO statements were displayed on tables reserved to NGOs.

III.- As part of my mission, I tried to get information about the supposed meeting of the Special Committee of NGO on Human Rights with the  Chairman of the present 60th session of  the Commission. Some people from organisations which took part to the Special Committee meeting last January to decide on the possible holding of this event were contacted. Many did not know ( even those at the WILPF office where I went twice) whether such a meeting took place, but finally I reached Mrs Conchita Poncini, President of the NGO Committee on

the Status of Women, who seemed to know everything. She said no such a meeting was held and she does not know whether it would take place.

IV.- The last two days I shared the room occupied by Prof. Shri Prakash, member of the AAPSO delegation. We had a very interesting discussion on how to improve AAPSO activities. He made a proposal to publish book on debt, human rights, development in general, to be issued by AAPSO Permanent Secretariat. Contacts will be maintained with him in the future.

On the evening of 1st April, Dr Srivastava reimbursed 400 ( four hundred) US dollars ( instead of 415 US dollars as mentioned in the letter to her from Cairo), the equivalent in dollars of my air ticket.