Armenian vice foreign minister speaks at UN Human Rights Commission session

MAR 19–1997–M2 Communications – Armenian Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian told the Commission on Human Rights this morning that his country had chosen the path of democracy–the rule of law and respect for human life and dignity.

Speaking as the Commission continued to debate the right of peoples to self-determination–the Armenian dignitary evoked the "Karabagh conflict"–saying "the population of Nagorno-Karabagh voted overwhelmingly for its own sovereignty". He called on Azerbaijan to release prisoners he said it was holding as a result of the Karabagh conflict.

Also this morning–representatives of all regional groups and a number of individual States paid tribute to the work of the first High Commissioner for Human Rights–Jos Ayala-Lasso–who is leaving his post to become Ecuador’s Foreign Minister. Speakers highlighted among his achievemen’s the number of field activities undertaken under his direction–the restructuring of the Centre for Human Rights and his policy of preventive diplomacy.

In a farewell address–Mr. Ayala-Lasso said the Commission had made progress in the past three years in promoting and protecting human rights. Human rights was "the most noble cause of mankind"–he said– adding that it was important to take appropriate actions towards violent and massive breaches of human rights with courage and firmness.

The Commission also continued to discuss the situation in the occupied Arab territories–with the representative of the Russian Federation urging all parties in the Middle East conflict to honour their commitmen’s and establish peace based on the land-for-peace formula. Addressing the other issue on the Commission’s agenda for the day–he added that the realization of the right to self-determination must not prejudice the rights and interests of populations that inhabited regions where given ethnic groups were exercising this right.

Also addressing the Commission this morning were the representatives of Algeria–Indonesia– Angola–Nicaragua–Sri Lanka–Libya–Palestine– Azerbaijan–Iran and Morocco.

The Commission will continue its general debate this afternoon at 3 p.m.

Statement by Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia

VARTAN OSKANIAN–Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia–said that at independence–Armenia had chosen the path of democracy–rule of law and respect for human life and dignity. In 1995–Armenia had adopted a constitution confirming the country as a democratic society governed by the rule of law. Armenia had also applied to the Council of Europe in January and received special guest status.

Armenia believed that democracy–human rights and a free market economy should be introduced and upheld–he said. His country had been one of the first Caucasian republics to join the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission–which assisted in the development of laws and ensured their compatibility with European norms and standards. Armenia had also been working with experts from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

A healthy economy was essential to ensure the country’s physical survival and stability–Mr. Oskanian continued. But Armenia’s economic crisis and the Karabagh conflict had produced both refugees and migran’s. His Government had accommodated all refugees from Azerbaijan that had entered Armenia in search of security and political freedom. It had also unilaterally returned Azerbaijani prisoners of war in mid-1995. There were no longer any prisoners of war in Armenia; Azerbaijan should do the same.

Armenia’s constitution upheld the rights of minorities–said the Vice-Minister. When minorities were not protected adequately– international disturbances–including massive and disorganized emigration as well as outright fighting–were not far behind. The international community ought to address the issue of the suppression of national self-determination as a fundamental human rights violation. He reminded the Commission that the population of Nagorno-Karabagh had overwhelmingly voted for its own sovereignty.

Mr. Oskanian said he wished to remind the Commission that the massacre of one-and-a-half million Armenia’s by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 was imbedded in the collective memory of the Armenian people. This crime was still unrecognized by the world’s governmen’s. While self-determination held an important place on Armenia’s agenda–so did genocide prevention and recognition–as this crime went to the very heart of elemental human rights and represented a denial of the right to survival.

Statemen’s

BORIS S. KRYLOV (Russian Federation) (…) Turning to other questions–the delegate said the right of self-determination was one of the most delicate and sensitive questions the international community faced today. There were today extremist manifestations of national self-determination. Such tendencies were characterized by aggressive nationalism and attempts to create mono-ethnic States while discriminating against the population of the non-title nation. The realization of the right to self-determination must not prejudice the rights and interests of a significant part of the population that inhabited the region where the given ethnic group was exercising its right to self-determination.

TOFIK MOUSSAEV (Azerbaijan) said too many States interpreted the principle of self-determination to suit their own purposes. In numerous cases–there was discrimination of a majority population group against a minority within the same state. However–certain minorities held provocative attitudes and acted as if they could determine their status by political means. International law stipulated that no one had the right to threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent State. International also law did not recognize the granting of self-determination on religious and ethnic grounds.

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