COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Agenda items 9 and 18
STATEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT/ HUMANITARIAN LAW PROJECT
ITEM 9--WAR AND DISPLACEMENT
As we document in our annual review of armed conflicts, there are currently 34 wars and twenty or so near wars, all generating massive numbers of internal displaced persons or mass migrations. We have all been innundated with the figures: half a million displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka, the massive problems in the Great Lakes area of Africa, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris fleeing the forces of the Indian-occupation, half of Liberia's population of 2.7 million displaced or seeking asylum as refugees, hundreds of thousands of Irani refugees. These mass exoduses and massive internal displacements will not end until the underlying causes for them -- the wars -- are resolved.
IED/HLP first wishes to address the nearly 200,000 persons forcibly expelled by Turkish authorities under the illegal regime in Turkish-occupied Cyprus who have yet to be able to return to their homes and property. In additional to the mass displacement of these Greek Cypriots, there are serious problems faced by the "enclaved" persons living under Turkish occupation. There have also been more than 100,000 persons settled by the Turkish authorities into Turkish-controlled Cyprus. We remind the Commission that forced removal of civilians and the introduction of settlers from an occupying force into occupied areas are violations of Article 49 of Geneva Convention IV of 1949. Article 147 of that Convention identifies these acts as grave breaches or war crimes. This issue and others related to the illegal seizure of part of the Republic of Cyprus have been part of the agenda of the United Nations bodies since 1974. In our annual report on armed conflicts we cite 24 Security Council resolutions on this issue -- all unfulfilled. The situation is now made more serious by the fact that the Prime Minister of Turkey, in a statement issued in January 1997, threatened preemptive stricks against the government of the Republic of Cyprus. BURMA
The situation of displaced persons is now a catastrophe in Burma, where the military forces of the illegitimate State Law and Order Restoration Council have recently carried out mass operations against the Karen and Karenni people in the border area between Burma and Thailand. Since the offensive began in February 1997, the people of the Karen and Karenni ethnic nationalities are facing annhilation. The situation is espacially grave in Kanchanaburi, Sangklaburi and Ratchaburi provinces. The SLORC regime even uses the pretext of environmental protection for its massive displacement and slaughter of Karen and Karenni people -- more than 2,000 were killed recently during the clearing of a site in Tenisserum for a so-called "nature" reserve. There is a deadly tug of war at the Thai border and shots have been fired between Thai forces and SLORC.
In the long struggle of the Karen and Karenni people to realize the promises made to them in the 1947 constitution many thousands have lost their lives and at least third are displaced. This Commission must act strongly to prevent the genocide of these people who have lived in their ancestral lands for thousands of years. The Commission resolution on Burma must strongly condemn these displacements and killings, which, because they take place in war, are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The Commission must also request urgent action, either by sending its own delegation to the area or by ensuring that the Secretary-General maintains a strong presence there.
ITEM 18 -- GUATEMALA
Our organization has reported on the war in Guatemala for many years. We take note of the Accords that the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) and the government signed in December 1996. We sincerely hope that these Accords result in genuine peace and social progress in Guatemala. However, we must remind the Commission that the people of Guatemala have been at war against illegal and repressive regimes for more than 40 years. The process of peace will take some time and must be carefully monitored. The realization of all human rights for the Guatemalan people will, in the best of circumstances, take much time to achieve. Accordingly, we think it imperative that the work of the Expert, Mrs. Monica Pinto, continue for at least another year. Her work has been a genuine triumph for the Commission and has been a key factor in the achievment of this fragile new peace. Terminating her mandate prematurely would be the height of folly.