UNHRC 4th Session Statement – March 29, 2007

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Human Rights Council
4th Session
12-30 March 2007

Item 2: Implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 entitled “Human Rights Council”

Other Issues

March 29, 2007

Statement by the International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities (IFPRERLM)

Delivered by Damianos SEREFIDIS (Main Representative, Geneva)

Mr. President,

The International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities (IFPRERLM), is glad to participate in the session on Other Issues, and would like to focus mostly on the minority debate and the need for de-securitization of such a debate.

Although there are difficulties on the political agreement on what a minority is, however, there is a widely accepted academic definition of minority and especially national minority, which makes reference to the ethnocultural particularity of a particular group; the historical existence of such a group in a given geographic area before the creation of the modern state; and the sentiment of solidarity among its members created and maintained on the basis of the two other above-mentioned traits.

From such a definition, it would be an exaggeration to consider that the mere existence of minorities and national minorities constitute a serious threat for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Revisionism and/or forceful territorial rearrangements should not be related to the modern minority debate. Instead, the expression of ethnocultural difference into the public sphere, through effective participation in political, economic and social development of modern states, constitutes the cornerstone of such a debate.

Within this framework of ethnocultural expression and effective participation in the state’s evolution of liberal institutional processes, we can mention cases such as the Assyrians living in the northern part of Iraq. Assyrians are the victims of the continuous fragile situation in Iraq and mostly in its northern provinces. Forced displacements and violations of their collective rights related to their freedom of expression and freedom of religion are among the issues that describe the harsh reality that Assyrians are facing in this particular region. Their hope is for a state of rule of law, where the ethnocultural differences and the right to live in one’s ancestral land will be respected.

In order for cases of national minorities, such as the Assyrian one, not to be forgotten or left aside from the general human rights discourse, the IFPRERLM:

a) urges the Council to work more towards the de-securitization of the minority debate,

b) calls the Council to support the Mandate on Minorities along with an expert body which will work as its normative backup, and

c) calls the Council to support the Mandate’s focus on the correlation between minorities and national institution-building processes, as well as to consider the Mandate’s positive outcomes through its collaboration with other mandates and other UN agencies.

Thank you Mr. President