Friday, December 1, 2006

Web posted at 7:17:03 GMT

Namibia slammed for 'killing' UN rights resolution


NAMIBIA has successfully lobbied other countries represented at the United Nations to delay a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, dealing a blow to rights advocates who have been campaigning for a UN resolution for many years.

"This is very disturbing indeed [that] Namibia, with its democratic constitution, would disregard and sacrifice the principles contained in its own Constitution, the supreme law of Namibia, in favour of the principles contained in the constitution of other African countries," said Phil ya Nangoloh, Director of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) in Namibia.

Namibia proposed amendments, on behalf of several African nations, to put off consideration of the declaration until the end of the current General Assembly session in September 2007 to allow further consultations.

However, human rights groups said this was a delaying tactic designed "as a death knell for the declaration", as no regular sessions of the General Assembly were scheduled after mid-December, and there was no budget authorised for a special session.

The declaration was approved on June 29 by the UN Human Rights Council based in Geneva and recommended for adoption by the 192-member UN General Assembly.

The declaration states: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

It also states that indigenous people should be free from discrimination and have a right "to consider themselves different and to be respected as such".

Namibia said some provisions in the draft declaration contradicted the national constitutions of a number of African countries and that time was needed to discuss it before it was tabled again.

"We are reasonably suspicious of the motives of the African countries, most of which are notorious for undemocratic conduct and the suppression of minority rights.

This kind of behaviour might bring discredit to the otherwise promising image of the [President Hifikepunye] Pohamba administration," Ya Nangoloh told The Namibian yesterday.

Finland, on behalf of the European Union, urged a vote against delaying the declaration, but they were ultimately outvoted.

"This is a very sad time for the world's indigenous peoples.

Once again, the world has made it clear that indigenous peoples' rights are not as important of those of other human beings, and certainly not as important as the world's powerful states and other interests," said Ellen Lutz, Executive Director of Cultural Survival.

She said certain countries objected to language that gave indigenous peoples rights to their lands and resources and ensured their free and informed consent before those rights were impeded upon.

"These states encouraged the African states with genuine concerns, as well as other African, Middle Eastern, and other states that have other political concerns," she said.

"Shame on those states that supported the Namibian resolution, and those that were behind it," Lutz said.

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for more information
on the Declaration

Permanent Forum on
Indigenous Issues

Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights

Documentation Centre
for Indigenous Peoples

Tebtebba Foundation

International Indian Treaty Council

American Indian Law Alliance

International Work Group
for Indigenous Affairs

Rights and Democracy

Amnesty International, Canada

University of Minnesota
Human Rights Library

(Download Kit)

Letter to States by
Special Rapporteur & Chair of PFII

Letter to States by
Indigenous Peoples Caucus

Letter to States by
Ambassadors to UN

Ten Key Points

Declaration (download)

How States voted in the
Human Rights Council

13 October 2006

View Webcast Video - 42 minutes

This media conference occurred at the UN on 13 October 2006 to discuss the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including its history, significance and current status.

H.E. Mr Enrique Berruga, Permanent Representative of Mexico;
Mr Aqqaluk Lynge

Innuit Circumpolar Conference
Mr Kent Lebsock
Executive Director
American Indian Law Alliance
Ms Elsa Stamatopoulou
Chief, Secretariat, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues;