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Human Rights Committee Examines Five Nations

Independent UN Human Rights Committee Examines Situations In Five Countries

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, ending its three-week examination of reports from five governments, found violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights governing domestic violence and warned that much counter-terrorism legislation was framed in such a way that it could reduce human rights protections.

In their concluding observations on Colombia, Germany, Lithuania, Suriname and Uganda, the committee of 18 independently elected experts, at its 80th session, noted a high incidence of violence against women and children, despite efforts to pass anti-violence laws.

Each country sent a delegation to explain to the Committee why violations of the Covenant had taken place and to point out any improvements.

The Covenant was adopted by the General Assembly and opened for signature in 1966. Together with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, it entered into force in 1976 and it now has 152 states parties.

The Civil and Political Rights Covenant states that everyone has the right to self-determination and to life, liberty and security of person. It prohibits torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment and the arbitrary deprivation of life.

At a <"">news conference held by four officers of the committee, Sir Nigel Rodely of the United Kingdom said that in addition to forced disappearances, abduction and extrajudicial killings in Colombia, human rights workers felt gravely threatened.

"One of the concerns that the Committee has is that some pretty intemperate language has been used by political and military officials at the highest level, calling into question some human rights defenders in a way that makes all human rights defenders feel they are open to a possible lack of support," he said.

The experts had also been concerned by the Colombian Government's draft proposals to Congress that would limit challenges to judicial decisions on constitutional grounds, prevent constitutional challenges to certain acts the presidency could take during declared states of emergency, and giving the military in such emergencies the status of judicial police.

In northern Uganda, where the Lord's Resistance Army was conducting what Sir Nigel called "terrorist activities," the government was failing to protect sufficiently the people under its protection and hundreds of people had been killed.

Suriname had recently submitted its 1985 report, but under committee rules, members could examine a country's record even without a report, Rafael Rivas Posada said, and the Surinamese delegation had been very frank about the problems of lack of resources that the country faced.

Massacres that took place in 1982 and 1986, before the present Surinamese government had taken office, had not been investigated and the perpetrators had not been punished, leading to problems of impunity, he said.

In addition, criminal laws applied to defendants as young as 10 years old. Suriname had been asked to bring its laws into line with international standards, he said.

Both Germany and Lithuania, though they had some positive aspects in their reports, had problems with trafficking in women, Roman Wieruszewski said.

Besides that, Germany had "not taken a position regarding the applicability of the Covenant to persons subject to jurisdiction in situations where troops or police forces operate abroad, particularly in the context of peace missions," he said.

Under Lithuania's counter-terrorism laws, suspects risked being extradited to countries where they could be tortured, violating Article 7 of the Covenant, he said.

The Lithuanian state did not furnish enough protection to witnesses to and victims of domestic violence, or to people seeking asylum, he added.

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