HRC56: Statement on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

16 December 2004

Statement by International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples (LIDLIP)

Presented by Jan Lönn

It is our pleasure to address you in a joint statement on behalf of several international NGOs in consultative status on Item 3 of the Agenda: Administration of Justice, rule of Law and Democracy.

The rights of peoples to peace and self-determination are human rights fundamental to the realization of most other categories of human rights.  When the United Nations was formed 59 years ago saving future generations from the scourge of war was at the forefront of people’s aspirations.  The deep roots of this rejection of agressive war in public conscience was massively demonstrated when some 15 million people took to the streets world-wise on 15 February 2003 against an attack on Iraq in the largest international peoples manifestation ever for peace.  By launching an aggressive war against Iraq in contempt of the UN Charter and the Security Council the rule of law at the international level was breached and peoples aspirations for global democracy and the right to have a say in world affairs frustrated.

The military occupation of Iraq resulted in grave and sytematic violations of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights standards by the occupying powers.  We all recall the horrifying pictures from the Abu Graib prison which evidently are just he tip of an iceberg of violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law by the occupying power.  Many thousand people, including women and children, are still imprisoned without any rights.  The legal status of the detainees are further complicated in a situation where a claim is made that the occupation has ended whiole at the same time all the foreign occupation forces reamin in the country, a problem which the Sub-Commission may wish to further study and deliberate on.

Regrettably the intergovernmental bodies of the UN have been largely silent on the violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Iraq.  In this situation we would like to express our appreciate for the initiative by the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, to undertake a study on the situation of Human Rights in Iraq as well as the actions taken by several of the Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights.  The Sub-Commission could play an important role by studying and discussing some of the systemic and principled issues that have arisen with regard to Iraq, the UN and the administration of justice, the rule of law and democracy.

During the last decades the United Nations has assisted various countries to achieve self-determination and democracy.  Situations of colonial or military occupation and internal political and military conflicts have been terminated through UN and internationally assisted political processes leading towards reconciliation and permanent solutions to the conflicts.  The typical way for an act of self-determination has been the holding of democratic election with the participation of all main political forces.  This has been the principle for all electoral processes where the UN has been involved- in Namimbia, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara still in process and in other countries.

The plans for the holding of elections in Iraq contrast sharply to those previous election processees with UN and international support and assistance.  Instead of offering the Iraqi people real choices and being part of ending the military occupation and terminating the conflict among Iraqis the planned elections appear to be a process that excludes large segments of the electorate from standing as candidates and violates the principles for democratic elections contained in General Comment 25 of the Committee on Human Rights.  According to the Transitional Administrative Law candidates must be above 30 years, while the majority of the electorate are under 30, they must have at least a secondary school education which has been the privilidge of only a minority, they must not be amonth the several millions that were members of the previous ruling party, and in addition they must have a “good reputation” among additional criteria.  It should also be noted that members of “illegal militias” according to the decreee of teh former Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority are prohibited from standing in the elections, which applies to, for example, Moqtada Sadr, the second most popular person in Iraq according to an opinion poll commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

An election held in contravention of established principles will not lead to peace and reconciliation but instead risks the continuation of the conflict and civil war.  

If the United Nations and the international community would accept departures from generally accepted principles for the holding of democratic elections as a part of a self-determination process and ending an occupation that could have serious implications for the credibility of international election assistance and monitoring in the future.  We believe that this matter deserves serious discussion and attention from the Sub-Commission.