Letter: Abuses of human rights that should concern the world community in Vienna

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The Independent Online
Sir: I concur completely with your leading article 'The case for human rights' (15 June) in its assertion that respect for human rights promotes peace. In a specific application of this point, last month, at the invitation of the authorities, I visited the besieged city of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I led a seminar on refugee and human rights law.

Much of the discussion concerned the recent offer of the international community to create 'safe areas' for Bosnian Muslims and others. Six locations have been identified by the United Nations Security Council, including the capital city of Sarajevo. These areas are to be kept 'free from armed attacks and from any other hostile acts which endanger the wellbeing and the safety of their inhabitants'. Negotiations are occurring now on how to realise the objectives in Sarajevo. How might such protection be implemented from a human rights perspective?

As a primary matter, it should be clear from the outset that inhabitants of safe areas are to have complete freedom of movement, an entitlement enshrined in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Only by guaranteeing recognition of this fundamental human right, an issue on which the governing Security Council resolutions are silent, can there be an assurance that residents have judged the situation to be sufficiently safe to remain.

The Sarajevo seminar offered no magical solutions. Perhaps its greatest value was the fact that it occurred, recognising that ensuring respect for fundamental human entitlements in that very difficult setting is as much of a daily necessity as securing adequate food and shelter. This essential lesson is one that should be featured prominently in discussions at the United Nations World Conference in Vienna.

Sincerely,

ARTHUR C. HELTON

Director, Refugee Project

Lawyers Committee for

Human Rights

New York

16 June

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