Conferences and Meetings

Conferences and Meetings

A paper presented to the United Nations Office in Geneva Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

A paper presented to the United Nations Office in Geneva
Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
July 26th - August 13th, 2004
Paragraph 6 (A): Special human rights issues – Women and Human Rights
Prepared by: Hamsa Abd El- Hamid
Head of Women Section
Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization

I would like to express my gratitude for allowing me to speak on behalf of the Permanent Secretariat of the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization (AAPSO) that has spared no efforts, since its establishment in January 1958 as an international NGO and as a popular demonstration of the Bandung objectives of firm struggle for the promotion of human rights, in general, and women’s rights, in particular.

AAPSO is keen on taking part in international, regional and national events, and through its national committees, in quest for a world with no wars, violence or terrorism. The Permanent Secretariat of AAPSO hopes that the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights will be able to provide assistance to women under occupation.

Violence against women during armed conflicts and in territories under occupation constitutes a gross violation of the Universal Declaration of human Rights and of international covenants and conventions that consider any violation of women’s rights as a violation of human rights.

The Iraqi woman has achieved several advances after the toppling of the previous dictatorship in Iraq and, particularly, after the formation of the new transitional government on June 30th 2004. The new law on the management of the Iraqi State during the transitional government, in article 30 (c), stipulates that the elections law should guarantee 25% of the National Assembly's seats and insure just representation of the different categories of the Iraqi society. Moreover, the transitional government has included several woman ministers and the last period has witnessed the flourishing of different women NGOs that work independently and actively.

However, the action of these organizations is hampered by the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. Many armed groups targeted the Iraqi infrastructure, oil pipelines and many Iraqi civilians as well as some Iraqi officials, including Mrs. Aqila Hashim, member of the transitional governing Council, who was killed by these armed groups that are still taking Arab and foreign hostages, threaten to kill them or do kill them in TV screens. The assassination of Iraqi officials has not stopped, as was expected, with the formation of the transitional government in the beginning of July 2004.

The deterioration of the security situation contributed as well in slowing down the process of statistical surveys required before the election of a consultative council, the elaboration of a permanent Constitution and the holding of a referendum to determine the political system of Iraq.

The conditions of Iraqi woman prisoners of war, in Abu Gharib prison and other prisons by the hand of occupation forces, were more atrocious and brutal. The occupation forces set up ten more prisons, in addition to those established during the rule of Saddam Hussein. They practiced psychological and physical torture, revealed by thousands of photos that confirmed the American practices of torture against Iraqi men and women, raping women, leaving them naked for days in open air, depriving them of food, water and wash, photographing them naked, and torturing them, which is considered a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949, especially paragraph 13 related to the treatment of the prisoners of war, and to the core of international humanitarian law. The photo of the American soldier Lindy England, pulling a totally naked Iraqi prisoner from a dog collar bound around his neck, speaks for itself. This is only one photo picturing one of the crimes committed in Iraq by the American forces for which America will not be punished because of its withdrawal of its signature of the International Criminal Court Statute or because of some bilateral agreements that it has concluded with some States to prevent the punishment of its soldiers.

The situation of the Palestinian woman is not so different from that of the Iraqi; the continued Israeli occupation is the major obstacle hampering the Palestinian women's efforts towards development and progress.

The situation of Palestinian woman refugees has deteriorated since the start of the second Intifada in 2000. Half of the Palestinian refugees are women who suffer from the deterioration of living conditions in all aspects of life: in terms of security, safety, halting of school life and work, destruction of infrastructure and deterioration of the economic situation, with daily per capita income below $ 2  and 60% of the West Bank inhabitants below poverty line. The situation of the Palestinian woman is getting more and more difficult in such conditions: Women have to wait for hours, or even days, at checkpoints to go to their jobs, subjecting themselves to killing. Many women died giving birth, while being held at checkpoints.

As political violence and violence against women are directly related, Palestinian woman martyrs have exceeded 130 since the start of the second Intifada and till November 2003, in addition to 2230 injured women, besides all those who became widowed or whose husband were sent to jails. Others were deprived of their sons who were killed or imprisoned as well. The situation is getting worse because of Israel's insistence on challenging the will of the international community, especially the General Assembly's resolution issued in July 2004, as well as other resolutions including the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion calling upon Israel to dismantle the Apartheid wall and compensate Palestinians for the harms they were caused because of the destruction of their houses, the cutting of olive trees, the wiping out of agricultural lands and chasing families out of their homes, with more than ten thousand homeless persons until May 2004 because of the construction of the wall, as well as the wiping out of some ten thousand acres of the best agricultural lands.

The Apartheid wall, whose construction started in 2002, hinders the work of humanitarian assistance, causes the exclusion of 1/4 millions of Palestinians in small prisons from which they can only move through tight paths and enables Israel to control Jerusalem and water resources. Alongside with the Israeli oppressive and violent policies, a draft law is being discussed aiming at excluding citizens from the West Bank and placing them in Gaza, including the members of the activist families as a means of punishment.

The Palestinian woman suffers from double violence: occupation violence on the one hand and domestic violence on the other, that was proved to increase in unstable areas.

Women in Darfur also suffer from a severe humanitarian disaster, as Internally Displaced Persons exceeded 600000, besides 3000 victims and the destruction of thousands of houses, at a time where humanitarian aids face a lot of obstacles to reach the area.

The situation is getting worse with the intervention of many foreign parties in an attempt to solve the crisis or, through mentioning the possibility of military solutions, as these issues are of Arab concern in the first place.

The Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization calls for the ending of all forms of gender-based violence in armed conflicts and urges all States to activate Security Council resolution 1325 calling for empowering women to play a suitable role in peace processes and talks and giving her role in peace issues more credit and appreciation.

The Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization urges the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to do the following:

  1.  Calling for the release of all documents related to the treatment of Iraqi prisoners and conduct an independent investigations to pursue those responsible for committing these gross violations.

  2.  Pressurizing Israel to implement the General Assembly resolution 194 and Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention for the treatment of prisoners and detained civilians in the times of war and to facilitate the return of Palestinian refugees.

  3.  Immediate humanitarian intervention in the affected areas in Darfur and guaranteeing the return of Internally Displaced Persons.

  4.  International monitoring of the ceasefire and arresting all the supporters of Janjaweed and other armed militias.

Finally, we hope to reach rapid and final solutions for the violations committed against Iraqi, Palestinian and Sudanese women. We also call upon all competent NGOs to cooperate with the United Nations in order to adopt a gender-based approach in designing and implementing policies that aim at eliminating all forms of violence against women.