ICJ oral intervention on the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of te world

United Nations Commission on Human Rights 59th Session 17 March-25 April 2003 (oral intervention delivered on 1 April 2003).

The International Commission of Jurists will limit its statement to Nepal, Zimbabwe, the United States and Iraq.

An ICJ fact-finding visit to Nepal two months ago revealed a highly disturbing human rights situation. A substantial number of persons were being held without charge, beyond even the overlong times prescribed under anti-terrorist legislation. The government has engaged in a pattern of ignoring court orders for the release of detainees or has effectively prolonged detention by re-arresting persons immediately upon release. Some detainees are held in unacknowledged detention by the army, although the military has no legal authority to detain. Lawyers and human rights defenders have been targeted for arrest and ill-treatment for association with their clients. Torture by the army, police and other security forces is both widespread and systematic. In its report to the Commission, the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances noted it had received reports of more cases of disappearances from Nepal than from any other country. With peace negotiations between the Government and the Maoists poised to begin, it is imperative that a program for human rights monitoring and addressing the near total impunity be formulated and implemented. The decision by the Office of the High Commissioner to send an adviser to evaluate the situation is a welcome, but clearly inadequate, first step. The ICJ calls upon the Office of the High Commissioner and the Government of Nepal to take steps toward the establishment of a field office in Nepal with the mandate to monitor the human rights situation and provide capacity building assistance.

Madame Chairperson,

The human rights situation in Zimbabwe has continued to deteriorate to appalling levels. The security forces and units of the ruling ZANU-PF party have engaged in widespread acts of violence, including rape and other torture, much of which is targeted at human rights defenders, trade unionists, the clergy, and perceived supporters of the political opposition. The Government has grossly breached its obligations regarding the right to food, through by the deliberate withholding of food aid to populations it associates with the political opposition. The Government has also used arrest and intimidation to impede the work of human rights defenders and to dissuade the judiciary from acting independently. The ICJ urges the Commission this year to take positive action on the impending resolution on Zimbabwe and calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to grant access to special procedure mechanisms. As Zimbabwe is a Commission member, there can be no justification for its refusal to cooperate with the Commission’s own organs.

Madame Chairperson,

The United States continues to hold more than 600 persons in prolonged and indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay, without charge and without access to courts, lawyers, or family members. The United States authorities have thereby contrived to strip an entire class of persons of all legal personality. Such an unlawful policy is virtually unprecedented in the modern human rights era. The United States has concocted a fictitious legal classification–“unlawful combatant”– to deny the Guantanomo detainees the protection of humanitarian law and has moved the detainees off US territory, where authorities can purport to claim that they are bound by no human rights law vis a vis the detainees. This understanding of international law is patently incorrect: A state has legal obligations to all persons coming under its jurisdiction. The ICJ calls on the United States to honour its human rights and humanitarian law obligations by granting the detainees access to lawyers and either to release the detainees or charge them with a cognisable crime.

Madame Chairperson,

The ICJ regrets that additional time has not been set aside during this session to discuss the present humanitarian and human rights emergency in Iraq. We call on the Commission to insist that all parties to the conflict respect international humanitarian law and that persons suspected of having committed international crimes be prosecuted. We also consider that, as soon as practicable, the Commission should send a fact finding mission on the situation of human rights in Iraq and that it thereafter deploy international human rights observers.

Thank you, Madame Chairperson.

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