UN to vote on rights abuses in Tibet: Europeans table censure motion; US position seen as key

The UN Commission on Human Rights will vote next week on a draft resolution proposed by the European Economic Community which would express concern at human rights violations by Chinese authorities in Tibet.

In addition to the 12 countries of the European Community, the draft, tabled Tuesday evening, has been co-sponsored by countries from Scandinavia and Latin America. Human rights groups said, however, that the position of the US would be the key to the resolution’s passage.

The draft resolution, which would mark the 53-member Commission’s first censure of Chinese policies in Tibet, speaks of “violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” which threaten the “distinct identity” of the Tibetans, who have lived under Chinese occupation since 1949. The resolution would build on a similar statement adopted by the Commission’s Sub-Commission of independent experts last August. As a result of that resolution, the UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali presented the Commission with a compilation of reports on the human rights situation in Tibet.

According to Adama Dieng (Senegal), Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists, a leading Geneva-based human rights group, the UN report provides “strong evidence of a pattern of gross violations of the rights of the Tibetan people, particularly their rights to practice their religion and culture.” It also details executions, torture and a denial of political rights. Dieng called on the Commission, the UN’s highest body dealing with human rights matters, to adopt the European Community’s “historic proposal.”

At the same time, Dieng noted that the position of the US would be critical to the resolution’s success. “Although the US has not yet openly taken a position on the resolution, we cannot imagine that the US will turn its back on the Tibetan people at this crucial moment.” He called on the US to take a strong public position in favour of the resolution, a step which, he said, might make it easier for some other countries to support the text despite heavy Chinese pressure.

In addition to Tibet, the Commission will consider draft resolutions next week on the human rights situation in Burma, Cuba, East Timor, EI Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka. It has already taken action expressing concern regarding Bahrein, Chad, the Israeli-Occupied Territories, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and Zaire.

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