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Top UN rights body adopts measures on civil and political rights, indigenous issues

Top UN rights body adopts measures on civil and political rights, indigenous issues

The central United Nations human rights forum today tackled a range of issues strongly endorsing the interdependent and mutually reinforcing nature of human rights, development and the rule of law, by adopting measures designed to protect the rights of individuals and promote civil and political freedoms.

The Commission on Human Rights began its work today hearing an address from Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who stressed that human rights - whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural - were universal, and by forging unity and determination in their defence, the Geneva-based body could set an example of common progress for the broader international community. Mr. Annan urged the Commission to take a proactive approach if the wider agenda for human rights was to be realized everywhere.

The Commission then took action on draft resolutions under its agenda items on civil and political rights, indigenous issues, and specific groups and individuals - a category relating to the rights of migrants, minorities, displaced persons and other vulnerable groups or individuals. On specific groups, it unanimously adopted a measure on human rights and mass exoduses, calling upon States to ensure effective protection of refugees and to ensure safe, unhindered access by humanitarian workers to displaced populations.

Concerning civil and political rights, the Commission adopted, by a roll-call vote of 37 in favour, none against, and with 16 abstentions, a resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions which stressed the importance of States taking effective measures to end impunity with regard to such acts. The text also called on all States in which the death penalty had not been abolished to comply with their obligations as assumed under relevant provisions of international human rights instruments.

A resolution on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance, approved by a vote of 51 in favour, none opposed, and 2 abstentions, urged States to take all necessary action to combat hatred, intolerance and acts of violence, coercion and intimidation motivated by intolerance based on religion or belief; and to recognize the right of all persons to worship or assemble in connection with a religion or belief.

The Commission approved five resolutions on indigenous issues, including, after extensive debate, a measure endorsing the decision of its Sub-Commission to appoint Erica-Irene A. Daes, as Special Rapporteur to undertake a study on indigenous people's permanent sovereignty over natural resources. That text was adopted in a recorded vote of 34 in favour and 8 against, with 10 abstentions.

By another roll-call vote of 34 in favour, to 15 against with 4 abstentions, the Commission adopted a resolution on the Working Group on indigenous populations in which it noted that the respective mandates of the Working Group, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people of the Commission were complementary and did not give rise to duplication.

The Commission also adopted without vote a resolution on human rights and indigenous issues requesting the relevant Special Rapporteur to request, receive and exchange information on violations of the human rights of indigenous people, wherever they occurred. In another unanimous decision, it recommended that the Working Group of the Commission elaborate a draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples to meet for 10 working days prior to the sixtieth session of the Commission.

The Commission also recommended that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOSC) authorize the Working Group of indigenous populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to meet for five working days prior to the fifty-fifth session of the Sub-Commission.