UN missions in Timor-Leste, Afghanistan observe Human Rights Day

10 December 2002

The United Nations missions in Timor-Leste and Afghanistan helped those countries observe Human Rights Day today, pledging support for the two nations' effort in promoting basic civil liberties in every day life.

In Timor-Leste, the Government marked the occasion by ratifying all seven core international human rights treaties, in the process becoming the twentieth signatory to the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families. The move brings the treaty into force 12 years after it was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

"Ratifying these treaties must mean more than signing a piece of paper," President Xanana Gusmão said, calling it a solemn commitment by the people of Timor-Leste to "implement the human rights principles and standards that are included in them." He added, "This is not some academic exercise...the policies and actions of our efforts in leadership and governance must be based on human rights."

After signing the treaties and covenants, President Gusmão passed them to the top UN envoy in Timor-Leste, Kamalesh Sharma, who will forward them to the UN Registry in New York. On accepting the documents, he praised the Government for its commitment, telling those at the ceremony "the signing of these treaties is as much a declaration to the world that the value of human dignity is cherished in Timor-Leste as it is an acceptance of international obligations."

The international treaties that were ratified today include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Also approved today were the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; plus three optional protocols dealing with the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Rights of the Child On the Involvement in Armed Conflict; and the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the second optional protocol dealing with Civil and Political Rights.

The Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the United Nations, José Luís Guterres, told reporters at a press conference in New York the signings come after the efforts of the international community to help build and develop his country. Joining him was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who previously held the top UN post in Timor-Leste.

The fact that the country ratified the treaties less than three months after its independence demonstrated that "small and weak nations that have just emerged from a long period of darkness and suffering, and who have just attained independence, are as committed to international law and its strengthening as more powerful, well-established, developed democracies around the world," Mr. Vieira de Mello said.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi, said that the UN mission would continue to carry out its human rights mandate by investigating violations, analyzing their root causes and proposing constructive measures in response.

"On this day, the people of Afghanistan should know that they have friends all over the world," Mr. Brahimi said. "They should know that there are men and women all over the world who follow with sympathy their struggle to strengthen the peace process, to defend their rights, to achieve national reconciliation and to rebuild their country.

 

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