Commission on Human Rights
Agenda item 9
Statement of International Educational Development/
Humanitarian Law Project
Oral Presentation by Karen Parker
International Educational Development is pleased to announce our sixth annual Armed Conflict in the World Today: A Country by Country Review. We again welcome the participation of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (UK). This year there are five more wars than last year, bringing the current number to 38. There was also an increase in the number of countries with serious and violent unrest: these 30 additional countries could explode into full-blown war at any time.
Africa alone has 16 wars, and at least seven near wars, producing millions of deaths, hundreds of thousands wounded and disabled, millions displaced and millions facing starvation. For example, in Sierra Leone, the closing of the Bo/Kenema roads since the January 1999 new offensive by Sam Bokarie and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) against Freetown and other parts of the country, has placed hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation. Several days ago, a small food consignment was taken in, but the situation is exceptionally precarious. The regional political body ECOWAS has sent military forces (ECOMOG) to Sierra Leone as part of the
1997 Conakry Accord, but to date has been unable to defuse the armed
conflicts between the Kabbah government, the RUF and other factions,
including Johnny Komorah's Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Kamajors militia. The AFRC is reportedly brutalizing civilians, causing yet more displacement and sheer misery. The international community should take much stronger action to bring about a lasting peace in Sierra Leone.
As bad as the situation is in Sierra Leone, there are equally bad wars
taking place in Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo and Burundi, with only slightly less catastrophic wars in Rwanda, Uganda, Lesotho, the Comoro Federation, Liberia, GuineaBissau, Angola, and between Ethiopia and Eritrea and Morocco and Western
Sahara. Regarding Western Sahara, we note yet again that the UN mandated
referendum for Western Sahara is postponed. Africa should receive much
more attention of the international community, given the sheer numbers of
wars and the enormous and tragic consequences of them.
In Asia, the war in Sri Lanka continues, and the Sinhala government rejects
all international efforts to encourage dialogue and negotiations. The
situation in Burma is especially grave, in part because of the long failure
of the international community to address the illegal nature of the regime
in control there, and the continued failure to address the ethnic
nationality questions in that region that have led to the armed conflicts.
In Kashmir, the United Nations acted fifty years ago and mandated a
plebiscite of Kashmiris to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, the United
Nations has yet to carry out its mandate, and the parties to the
controversy are brandishing nuclear weapons. In Indian-occupied Kashmir,
the Indian armed forces continue to commit serious violations of the Geneva
Conventions, and the civilian population is essentially cut off from
effective international monitoring and assistance.
We welcomed the removal of Indonesian ruler Soeharto and the installation
of Mr. B. J. Habibie as head of state. We are encouraged by the efforts he
has made to date to resolve the illegal occupancy of Indonesia in East
Timor. However, he has yet to begin to resolve the situation in the
Moluccas and Acheh, including especially the legal status of these areas in
light of the 1948 Round Table Conference Agreements under United Nations
auspices. In Acheh, there are new findings of past atrocities at the hands
of the Indonesian military forces, and the situation remains tense. In the
Moluccas, violence has broken out between Javanese colonizers and the
Moluccan people, which appears to be provoked and orchestrated by the
Indonesian authorities to divert attention from the past abuses and to
affect the June 7, 1999 national elections. We have submitted a written
statement under agenda item 5, where we more fully discuss these issues.
We urge the Commission to demand that the Indonesian authorities undertake
sincere negotiations with the political leadership of the people of Acheh
and the Moluccas, including with the governments in exile of those areas,
to resolve the status of both areas in conformity with the Round Table
Our organization has worked intensely on the situation in Mexico for the
past 5 years. We have been stunned by the sheer numbers of human rights
and humanitarian law violations there, as well as with the brutality of the
Mexican authorities. In December 1997 there was a massacre of the
indigenous population in Acteal which could only have taken place with at
least the collusion of the Mexican authorities. We carried out a number of
on-site investigations in Acteal, and we have permanent representation in
the area, where we work closely with Mexican groups. In February 1999, we
awarded Mexican human rights activist Rosario Ibarra our first Dag
Hammarskjold Prize. Ms. Ibarra has been a member of the Mexican parliament
and is currently Human Rights Advisor to Mexico City's mayor, Cuauhtemoc
Cardenas. In 1998, and to date in 1999, we have prepared 4 reports on
Mexico with our findings. In December 1998, the government of Mexico
issued a "White Paper" on the events at Acteal with which we take strong
issue - the "White Paper" contains many factual discrepancies, and its
conclusions contradict much of the physical evidence and testimonies we
have compiled there.
Now the government of Mexico has sought to undermine the San Andres Accords
negotiated with the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (the EZLN).
The EZLN arranged for a national referendum called the "Consulta Nacional,"
the results of which show that, of the 2.5 million voters, over 90%
indicated that the government should implement the Accord.
Reports of continuing violations, including massacres, continue unabated in
Mexico. We presented our videotape of the massacres at Union Progreso and
Chavajeval to the High Commissioner and the Sub-Commission. We have also
submitted a written statement on Mexico under agenda item 10 at this
session. The Commission must take note of the condemnation of Mexico
apparent in the reports of Commission thematic rapporteur and working
groups. The Commission should also note that the Sub-Commission,
repsonding to the clear evidence of widespread gross violations of human
rights in Mexico, adopted a resolution on Mexico. It is imperative that
the Commission on Human Rights also adopt a resolution in which it appoints
a Special Rapporteur for Mexico.