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UN rights forum asks parties to Iraq conflict to follow humanitarian law

UN rights forum asks parties to Iraq conflict to follow humanitarian law

Wrapping up its annual session today, the main United Nations human rights forum adopted a resolution on the situation in Iraq asking all parties to the current conflict to abide strictly by their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Earlier Friday, on the final morning of its 2003 session, the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights also adopted measures on the situations in Haiti and Colombia as well as lengthy resolutions on the state of affairs in Afghanistan, Somalia, Cambodia and Sierra Leone.

The Commission also approved brief measures on providing technical assistance and advisory services to Chad and appointed an independent expert in Liberia for an initial period of three years to facilitate cooperation between the Government and the Office of the High Commissioner.

Through its resolution on Iraq, the Commission called on the international community to address the major humanitarian needs of the people, and called on it to assist in the development of free and democratic institutions in the country. The 53-member body also extended for one year the mandate of its Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iraq.

Under the Chairperson's statement on Haiti, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to expand its activities in that country by setting up an office. Expressing the deep concern of Chairperson Najat Al-Hajjaji of Liberia at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Haiti, the statement urged the Government to continue to step up its efforts to combat impunity for human rights violations, to strengthen the rule of law, and to ensure the independence of the judiciary and to protect political leaders, journalists, trade union activists and human rights defenders.

The statement on Colombia, meanwhile, noted the Government's effort to increase human rights training, but expressed concern at continued reports of human rights abuses attributed to the armed and security forces. The Commission also firmly condemned all acts of terrorism and other criminal acts, the recruitment of a large number of children by illegal armed groups, the practice of kidnapping and all threats, attacks and assassinations by paramilitary or other illegal armed groups against persons who carried out peaceful political activities.

The resolution on Afghanistan noted with concern reports of violence perpetrated by Afghan elements against certain ethnic groups, internally displaced persons and refugees who had returned, as well as cases of arbitrary arrest and detention and attacks against women and girls. It also requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint an independent expert to aid and advise the country's Transitional Authority on human rights matters.

By the text on assistance to Somalia, the Commission expressed deep concern at reported cases of rape, arbitrary and summary executions, torture and violence, in particular against women and children, and at the absence of an effective judicial system. It also condemned ongoing widespread violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law, and called on all States not to interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia. The Commission extended the mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia for a further year.

The text on the situation of human rights in Cambodia cited progress made in a number of human rights matters but noted with concern continued problems related to the rule of law and the functioning of the judiciary.