Letter: Victims' representatives excluded from human rights forum

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The Independent Online
Sir: The UN human rights jamboree in Vienna serves only to highlight the differences between groups of states, as Raymond Whitaker shows ('Asians challenge Western ideals', 14 June).

If, however, the Asian states' declaration that 'rights should be seen in the context of a nation's history' is accepted, the oppression of subject peoples who were formerly self- governing should be put at the top of the agenda. As the former UN Rapporteur Hector Gros Espiell has said, the right of self-determination is an essential precondition for the existence of all other human rights and freedoms.

This makes it all the more intolerable that the representatives of the Kashmiris, Tibetans and Sikhs, who were originally invited to the conference, have now been told not to come.

The official who wrote withdrawing the invitations said there had been an 'administrative oversight', but the real reason must have been that pressure was brought to bear on the organisers by the Indians and Chinese.

What is the point of a human rights conference where the representatives of the victims are systematically excluded?

It would be more useful if, instead of paying the fares and hotel bills of a delegation from the UK - no doubt a not inconsiderable sum, Vienna prices being what they are - we donated an equivalent sum to the human rights groups working for the liberation of peoples from the empires of China, India and Indonesia.

Yours faithfully,


House of Lords

London, SW1

14 June

The writer is Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group.