Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Republic Of Armenia - Foreign Minister address to UN Human Rights Council

Information Desk
Tel: (374-10) 52-35-31
Statement of H.E. Vartan Oskanian

In this first year of this new Council, together with the human
Rights community, we have been refining the processes that
will empower this body in order for it to meet our shared high
expectations. The expectations of this Council were high at
the outset. They would have remained high, even if the world
were not embroiled in destructive explosive conflicts. It is
no surprise that at the heart of most of those conflicts,
lies an absence of a respect for basic human rights.

Our collective responsibility is to those individuals and groups,
those millions represented through their governments here,
as well as to those whose voices remain muted. They are not
interested in our debates, they know little about the nuance
and the detail, but our seriousness and sincerity will be
judged either by their trust and confidence or by their
cynicism and disdain.

With this realization, the strengths of the Commission on Human
Rights drove the need for an even more powerful body. The
limitations of that Commission compelled the creation of a more
effective structure with broader reach. The Universal Periodic
Review process, if it lives up to its name, holds the promise
of the impartiality and inclusiveness we seek and require, in
order for the process to transform itself from a means to an
end - from a way of investigating the human rights environment
to enabling an environment where there are human rights.

Our objective is a world where the rights of individuals and
groups are respected, where each neighborhood and each community,
each city and country, each region and continent, are safe havens
for all who live or travel there. Religion does tear people apart,
as do economic disparities,language and ideology. But the
frustrating and fascinating contradiction is that faith has also
bound people together, prosperity has been a common goal,language
and ideology have been shared.

Mr.President, this universal truism is also true in our region.
Unfortunately, the human rights record in our whole region
during the past fifteen years is nothing to be envied; it is a
case study in how human rights abuses lead to conflict and how
conflicts heighten human rights abuses. From pogroms to ethnic
cleansing, from destruction of spiritual markers to vilification
of ethnic groups, we have lived through the worst that man can
do to man. It is no wonder that the region has been mired
inconflict since the first days of independence. As we search
for ways to build a peace atop this pain and destruction,
however, it is clear that solutions can only be found through
the genuine and universal acceptance and application of basic,
fundamental individual and collective human rights. There is
the formula for peace: The violation of human rights brought
us to this quagmire; the respect for human rights will
get us out.

Indeed it is an entangled web of human rights abuses of varied
scope, nature and depth that has brought our region to this
situation. First,there is the total disrespect of the cultural
values of other people. When a government intentionally plans
and executes the destruction of centuries-old monuments of
profound cultural, artistic and religious significance, that
government has violated the spirits of the dead and the trust
of the living. Five thousand Armenian monuments have been
destroyed by the Azerbaijani government in the region of
Nakhichevan in the past few years, simply to eliminate the
trace of a whole nation from that territory.

Second, there is the violation of the right of people to
self-determination. In the waning days of the USSR, the people
of Nagorno Karabakh opted for self-determination. The
Azerbaijani authorities decided to attack their own citizens
to suppress those calls. And by doing so, they lost the
political and moral right to govern people they considered
their own citizens.

Third, there are the negative consequences of the double
denialism of the Turkish government. The denial of the right
of their own people to freely discuss and debate their common
past with Armenians, and the denial to both Armenians and
Turks to forge a common future, by keeping borders closed.
Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who fell victim
to an assassin's bullet, was the embodiment of both Turkishness
and Armenianness. Hrant Dink had two missions in his life - to
break all taboos within his own society, Turkish society, and to
forge a dialog between Turks and Armenians to reach
understanding and reconciliation.

Indeed, that's exactly what we want today. There needs to be
an open society within Turkey so that their people can, without
the fear of persecution, freely debate the past, and there has to
be an open border between us so that our two peoples can
interact and engage. Only in this way can we transcend our
differences and reconcile.

Now, Mr. President, a word about our own commitment to human
rights and democracy. In this, our 16th year of independence,
our people will be going to the polls to elect a parliament
whose powers the people chose toenhance, to invest them with
broad authorities for social and economic advances. The task
of our next government is clear: to stay the course and more
aggressively promote human rights, alleviate poverty and
build effective governing institutions, to enable our society
to embrace democracy individually and collectively.

But the cruelties inherent in the process of massive economic
readjustment that we have been undergoing have led to a sense
of powerlessness on the part of ordinary citizens. As a
consequence, they are cynical about the value of expressing
their voice. This means we must work harder to strengthen
democratic institutions and processes, including elections,
because they are not just ends. They are also means to
creating the necessary political and economic environment
which lead to distributed growth and dignified development.

Finally Mr. President, this Council and each of us, its
members, have a responsibility to promote the human rights
we hold so dear in the world, in our regions and in our own
societies. There is nothing new in this formula. Our
challenge is to commit to it and make it work.

Thank you.

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