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Statement by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Head of the delegation of the Russian Federation Yuri V.Fedotov at the High level segment of the 60th session of the UN Commission on human rights, Geneva, 17 March 2004

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The tragic death of Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello in Baghdad last year proved to be a heavy loss for the whole of the international community, for all those who share the ideals of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This tragic event once again demonstrated the monstrous essence of terrorism and terrorists, persons who do not have either religion or nationality.

Unfortunately, during the short period of time when Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, he did not manage to implement all his plans. Nevertheless, we are confident that the direction taken by him for rendering the human rights component of the United Nations more constructive, lessening confrontation will stay as a benchmark for his successor Mrs. Louise Arbour, whom we congratulate on the occasion her appointment as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mr. Chairman,

International relations and inter-State co-operation in the field of human rights does not represent a given value. It is a complex system which undergoes the process of constant change and development. We believe that universally recognized standards in the field of human rights, which States are called upon to promote and protect, are in the heart of this system.

A relevant international machinery is needed in order to react adequately to the new challenges and threats in the field of human rights. Therefore, the need for the improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of work of the Commission on Human Rights, as the main UN body in this field, is becoming more pressing than ever.

Unfortunately, the recent sessions of the Commission are marked by an atmosphere of unprecedented confrontation and politicization. Such a situation seriously injures the authority it enjoys. We are confident that the review of its agenda alone or any technical organizational measures cannot immediately improve the effectiveness of the work of the Commission. There is a need for adjustment of fundamental approaches of States and non-governmental organizations with respect to the discussion of important human rights issues.

The Russian Federation believes that the main objective of the Commission, its "raison d'etre", is the promotion of a constructive dialogue on all the human rights issues. Such a dialogue is only possible under the conditions of mutual respect and common and fare willingness to resolve existing problems.

In our view, it is necessary to study thoroughly the entire set of issues relating to the consideration by the Commission of the so-called "country resolutions". There is no doubt that the human rights situation in a particular State or region can be the subject of concern for the international community. However, the absolutisization of this thesis leads to the artificial formation of a certain "group of infringers", which are subjected to different sorts of penalties. We are convinced that such an approach does not in any way promote the efficiency of the Commission, improve its authority or foster the creation of an atmosphere of trust, which is so important when dealing with human rights issues.

Speaking about the methods of work of the Commission, one should also specifically mention its special procedures, which are in fact a kind of a "visit card" of this body. Unfortunately, in some cases special reporters, special representatives, chairpersons of the Working Groups, when sending communications to the States, continue to use unreliable and, on some occasions, tendentious information. Should one say that such a way of communicating with the governments leads to the undermining of confidence for the special procedures? Special reporters are responsible before the Commission and should strictly abide by their respective mandates. We believe it is also important to consider changing the procedure for nomination to these posts, since the existing rules do not ensure its transparency.

The measures aimed at reforming the Commission should take into account the aforementioned factors, otherwise the effectiveness of this body will be close to zero and the demand for its services will be constantly diminishing.

Certain changes have to take place in views and positions of States as well as in their attitudes towards the issue of inter-State co-operation in the field of human rights. Only then the Commission would be in a position to realize fully its potential, to focus its attention on priority objectives of responding to the new challenges and threats in the field of human rights.

One of these threats is the danger that terrorism represents to the international regime of the promotion and protection of human rights as well as the entire system of international relations.

The consequences of terrorist acts affect all each and every aspect of our lives without any exception, including the protection of human rights, since terrorists and their accomplices first of all endanger the most important of all rights - the right to life. Unfortunately, we in Russia are quite familiar with these criminal acts. Last year alone thousands of Russian nationals became victims of inhuman terrorist acts. The global character of this phenomenon and the coordinated nature of attacks of international terrorists has been demonstrated once again by resent blasts in Madrid. We convey our deep and sincere condolences to the Spanish people.

We think that the interrelation between the problem of terrorism and protection of human rights has recently become even more evident. On many occasions we declared the readiness and the determination of Russia to develop and strengthen inter-State co-operation in the fight against terrorism, including its human rights component. One of the concrete steps in that direction was the realization of the Russian initiative of a code on the protection of human rights from terrorism at the 57th session of the UN General Assembly. We are satisfied that all the elements of this code were reflected in the resolutions "Human rights and terrorism" adopted by the Commission and the General Assembly.

Russia stands for an uncompromising and rigid fight against any forms of terrorism, irrespective of aims and purposes to which refer the perpetrators of these acts. Any attempt to divide terrorists into categories of "good" and "bad" are not permissible. They damage the process of consolidation of the international counter-terrorist coalition. We do not cast doubt on the fact that when countering terrorism it is necessary to take into account human rights standards. However, the use of the human rights rhetoric for justifying terrorists is contrary not only to the legal, but also to the moral and ethic norms.

Mr. Chairman,

Gross and massive violations of human rights, wherever they are committed, require a prompt and effective reaction from the international community. This is first and foremost true for the cases of blatant systematic violations of human rights norms and standards, as they can occur during, for instance, emergency situations. However, it is inadmissible to ignore serious infringements upon human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries which are considered to have a clean human rights record. Discrimination of minorities, disrespect for fundamental principles of legal procedure and other violations represent a negative environment and a source of new conflict situations.

In this connection we are disturbed by the humanitarian situation which is prevailing in Latvia and Estonia - the States that will soon become members of the European Union. In principle, membership in the EU presupposes a relatively good record in observance of universally recognized international human rights standards, which, moreover, in the EU are considered to be an all-European value. We would like to stress that neither Russia nor international experts put forward any extraordinary demands before Latvia and Estonia. Here we deal with the necessity for those States to implement only the basic human rights norms, in particular, with respect to the protection of the rights of minorities.

The most serious problem in these countries is the large number of Russian speaking non-citizens. Due to the phenomenon of statelessness human rights and fundamental freedoms of this part of the population are seriously violated. We are convinced that the conservation of the problem of 480 thousand stateless persons in Latvia and 160 thousand in Estonia creates a serious long-term deficit of democracy in these countries. One more conflict issue, that is more characteristic of the situation in Latvia, is the educational reform. This reform, in fact, provides for the elimination of the system of higher education in the Russian language - the mother tongue for 40% of pupils in this country. We are convinced that the reform option, that takes into account the necessity of fluency in the official Latvian language by all the population as well as the opportunity to obtain good education in the Russian mother tongue, can be achieved only through a constructive dialogue of the authorities with the Russian speaking community.

We think that such an authoritative body of the UN, as the Commission on Human Rights, cannot and should not ignore the aforementioned serious symptoms pointing to the illness in the very center of Europe.

Mr. Chairman,

In his report to the General Assembly Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan rightly noted that "human rights activity is of a great importance to the achievement of the objectives of the United Nations". Moreover, the promotion of inter-State co-operation in this field is embodied in the Charter as one of the main objectives of the UN. This is precisely why we are convinced that the discussion of this issue in the UN should serve the rapprochement of countries. On its part, Russia is eager to do everything it can for the development of such co-operation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.