Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Phayul Special Correspondent
United Nations, December14: On 10 December afternoon, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that in the context of 2008 Beijing Olympics, the case of Tibet will attract more attention. Ms. Louise Arbour made the remark after a journalist raised some specific questions on the situation in Tibet during a press conference with the UN human rights chief.
Ms. Arbour responded to the question by stating: “As for what you are asking about Tibet, it is a file, I think, which continues to be present at the attention of the whole world. As you put it, we are not making statements at each occasion, and maybe this is part of a negligent attitude toward some old files. I spoke before about sharp violations and chronic violations of human rights. There are some sharp violations which exist for such a long time that they give a feeling of being chronic, and so, there are no more mentioned. But I think that this file, especially in the context of the Olympic Games, will continue attracting much more attention.”
Earlier that day, the United Nations launched a year long campaign on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) in view of the 60th Anniversary of the landmark document on the World Human Rights Day next year. Ms. Arbour while addressing the resumed its Sixth Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) during a special event on the UDHR said: “Some sceptics argue that civil and political rights—as articulated in the Declaration—belong solely to western traditions and agendas, and are not as widely shared as their advocates believe. For their part, critics coming from liberal economic perspectives are wary of the Declaration's economic and social rights which they regard as either hampering free market practices, or imposing too cumbersome obligations on States, or both. Finally, others have articulated rejectionist positions simply to better preserve privileges and power uniquely for themselves and a selected few, while denying the rights of everyone else.”
A large group of Tibetans and their supporters gathered outside the United Nations building in Geneva on Monday, December 10, 2007, to remind the international community of the continued struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Tibet. (Photo: tibetswiss.com
"Dignity and Justice for All" is the theme chosen by the United Nations while launching the campaign on the UDHR. The United Nations said that the theme: "…reinforces the vision of the UDHR as the first international recognition that fundamental rights and freedoms are inalienable and inherent to all human beings, that every one of us is born free and equal. The phrase also serves as a rallying call, for the promise of dignity and justice is far from realized for everyone."
On Monday afternoon, outside the United Nations building in Geneva, more than 150 Tibetans gathered with some local Tibetans and supporters to once again remind the international community of the continued struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Tibet. The Tibetan Community in Switzerland (CH) and Liechtenstein (FL) also submitted a memorandum seeking greater attention to the situation in Tibet to Ambassador Doru Costea of Romania who is currently the President of the HRC.No Indigenous Peoples in Asia
On Wednesday, when the HRC had an "interactive dialogue" on a report submitted by Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen (Mexico), the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people; the People's Republic of China (PRC), speaking on behalf of Asian governments, said there were no indigenous peoples in continent to the utter shock of representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world in the meeting.
In an addendum to his main report, Prof. Stavenhagen submitted a report titled, "General considerations on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples in Asia." The report stated that "indigenous peoples are referred to as ethnic minorities and given a legal treatment similar to that of other minority groups, as in the cases of China, Viet Nam, or the Lao People’s Democratic Republic."
China's statement reacted: "The Asian Group also finds it difficult to understand why the Special Rapporteur decided to commence this region focus from Asia, particularly so, since a large number of Asian countries do not have indigenous peoples as vulnerable groups among their populations since their entire populations are indigenous."
In reaction, Copenhagen-based International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) distributed a statement which said: “With the worsening situation of indigenous peoples in Asia as presented in the report of the Special Rapporteur, we call on Asian States to adopt and immediately implement the recommendations in his report on the situation of indigenous peoples in Asia. In particular, we call on the Asian governments to put into action its support to the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.”
One of the conclusions of Prof. Stavenhagen's report on Asia said: "While militarization and State repression are frequently the source of indigenous peoples’ human rights violations in many parts of the world, the recurrent and widespread character of these abuses in Asian countries gives rise to special concern. Decades-long civil conflicts, insurgency movements, political crimes, and other abuses committed in the name of the struggle against terrorism or secessionism have taken a deadly toll in indigenous and tribal communities. Massacres, killings of social activists and human rights defenders, torture, sexual violence, and displacement are still daily realities for many such communities. While the Special Rapporteur acknowledges the complexity of the various contexts in which these violations occur, the seriousness of these violations leads to the conclusion that the indigenous peoples are widely regarded in many countries as “backward”, second class citizens."