(in General Consultative Status with ECOSOC)

Philippe LeBlanc OP

Meeting on the follow-up
to the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action,
Chaired by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson
Conference Room 1, United Nations, New York
November 3, 1998

The statement of Franciscans International and Dominicans will deal with three areas which are referred to in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action:

i) the rights of Indigenous People;
ii) the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; and,
iii) the International Criminal Court.

The rights of Indigenous People

Franciscans International and the Dominicans remain concerned about the progress made during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous people in advancing of the rights of indigenous people. One of the objectives of the International Decade is the promotion and protection of their rights and their empowerment to make choices which enable them to retain their cultural identity ...

In her seminal report Indigenous People and their relationship to the Land, which she tabled at the 1997 meeting of the Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the Special Rapporteur Mrs. Erica-Irene Daes stated: "The gradual deterioration of indigenous societies can be traced to the non-recognition of the profound relationship that indigenous peoples have to their lands, territories and resources, as well as the lack of recognition of other fundamental rights...That indigenous societies are in a state of rapid deterioration and change is due to the denial of the rights of indigenous peoples to land, territories and resources."

There are many examples in a number of countries where this situation continues to exist and where the survival and the lives of indigenous people are being threatened.

We therefore urge United Nations bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights and its Sub-Commission:

  1. To give priority attention to the systematic violations of human rights of indigenous people and, further, to develop actions for ensuring that their rights to land, territories and resources are recognized and respected.

  2. To continue its efforts toward the adoption of a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

  3. To establish a permanent forum for indigenous people at the highest level of the United Nations so they can fully participate in the system.

Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

Franciscans International and Dominicans reiterate their strong support for the Declaration on human rights defenders. In view of the importance and the precarious and, at times, dangerous nature of their work in many countries of the world, it is incumbent upon this body to affirm the vital role of human rights advocates and imperative that the General Assembly adopt the Declaration.

In many countries, human rights defenders often live at risk of being arrested, tortured, attacked, harassed and in some cases assassinated for working for human rights. Human rights workers are men and women, young and old, of all races, religions and cultures. They are persons who believe strongly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and who are committed to advocating on behalf of those whose rights are violated and infringed.

Once adopted by the General Assembly, the next step will be to ensure that steps are taken for the implementation of the Declaration worldwide. There will be a need to consider the development of appropriate implementation and monitoring mechanisms.

Franciscans International and Dominicans recommend the following:

  1. That the UN General Assembly adopt the Declaration on December 10, 1998, the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  2. That it remain an agenda item of the Commission of Human Rights for an annual review and for monitoring the implementation of the Declaration.

  3. That the Commission on Human Rights consider appointing a Special Rapporteur for the ongoing monitoring of the implementation of the Declaration.

International Criminal Court

Franciscans International and Dominicans express their satisfaction for the United Nations initiative to call a UN Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, which was held in Rome, from June 15 to July 17 1998. We consider that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which was adopted at the Conference is a major step in forging a missing link which can provide the international legal order with power to exercise jurisdiction over persons accused of committing the most serious crimes, i.e. crimes against humanity.

We therefore urge:

  1. all states to sign and ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court at the earliest date possible,

  2. the Commission on Human Rights and its Sub-Commission to investigate practical ways of promoting follow-up and implementation of the Statute to help in eradicating impunity and to give redress to the cries of the victims.

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