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Sommaire: EU Parliament – Human Rights Resolutions on Kashmir, Philippines and Burma (17 November 2005: Strasbourg)
MEPs are calling for urgent action to help those affected by the earthquake in Kashmir, for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines to grant a full pardon to Francisco Larrañaga, and for renewed efforts by the UN and the EU to bring about a transition to democracy in Burma. These calls came in three resolutions on human rights around the world adopted, as usual, at the close of the Strasbourg session.
Access to humanitarian aid in Kashmir
In their resolution adopted on Kashmir by a clear majority, MEPs express their sincere condolences, sympathy and solidarity to all those affected by the earthquake that struck South Asia on 8 October 2005. They say they remain seriously concerned about the situation of survivors, especially the people living in high country settlements cut off by landslides, who can only be reached by a fleet of relief helicopters. They are alarmed about reports that people in some of the hardest-hit areas have received little if any aid.
Parliament stresses that the worst-hit areas have become inaccessible, as roads and communication systems are largely destroyed, and underlines the tragic consequences that will result from a continued delay in the delivery of humanitarian aid to remote mountainous areas. It welcomes the relief efforts already made by Pakistan, the international community, NATO and the EU. MEPs fully support relief operations such as ‘Winter Race’, which has been launched by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to deliver 10,000 shelter repair kits to high-altitude villages. They call for increased cooperation between all the agencies involved and the governments of India and Pakistan.
Parliament fully supports requests for immediate funding of emergency aid. It urges donors to contribute to the USD 550 million requested by the UN without delay and reminds them of the additional USD 580 million pledged during the donor conference of 26 October 2005. It asks the Commission to indicate as soon as possible whether the EU will be able to make further funds available within the global transfer or under other mechanisms, particularly in view of the reconstruction needs from 2006 onwards.
In this regard, MEPs express serious concern about the severe budget constraints faced by the Commission as far as humanitarian aid is concerned and stresses that most of the remaining operational reserve of ECHO has been used up by other recent major emergencies.
Parliament welcomes the agreement between the governments of India and Pakistan on the opening of crossing points on the Line of Control (LoC). It is convinced that the opening of crossing points is of vital importance to the people of Kashmir and the relief operation. It asks the authorities of both countries to allow crossing by civilians and welcomes the opening of five crossing points for the exchange of goods. It also supports the call by the UN World Food Programme to open other points for crossing the LoC and to allow movement of trucks in order to support the relief operation for hundreds of thousands of people in remote valleys and on high mountains in Kashmir.
Parliament welcomes the signs of progress in Indo-Pakistani bilateral talks on Kashmir, and other mutual displays of flexibility, such as the recently launched bus service between the two parts of the territory, or the visits by the Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs to Pakistan and the President of Pakistan to India. It also welcomes the Indian Prime Minister’s declaration, supported by President Musharraf, that the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir should be regarded as a ‘Mountain of Peace’ and as a new symbol on the path to full reconciliation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, and calls on the EU to support this positive move in order to achieve, as soon as possible, a definitive agreement between the parties.
Finally, MEPs expresses hope that the terrible catastrophe, which struck the Kashmiri people hardest of all, may bear the positive fruit of bringing the survivors closer to peace, free movement and prosperity in the near future; applauds the governments of India and Pakistan for recent first steps towards reconciliation, which for the first time included the Kashmiris directly in the process. Parliament very much hopes that this is the beginning of a steady process towards peace; calls therefore on the Indian and Pakistani governments to continue with the process that should, while involving the population concerned, lead to a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue.
Death sentence in the Philippines for EU citizen
Parliament's resolution on the Philippines, adopted by a clear majority, focuses on the case of one of the prisoners currently being held there under sentence of death - European citizen Francisco Larrañaga, who was accused of rape and murder. Despite the fact that his case has all the characteristics of an unfair trial according to international legal standards, the death sentence on Francisco Larrañaga was confirmed in July 2005 and there are no further possibilities of appeal. Parliament asks the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to exercise her powers by granting an absolute pardon to Francisco Larrañaga and securing his immediate release from prison, as well as commuting the death penalty of prisoners on death row, particularly the 18 child offenders.
MEPs call for a review of the legal procedure leading to the death penalty in this case, and ask for a fair trial to be held on the basis of respect for all legal, penal and jurisdictional guarantees. They urge the Commission and Council to take all necessary initiatives to prevent the execution of this EU citizen.
MEPs endorse all international initiatives which would lead to the abolition of capital punishment worldwide, notably United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolution No 2005/59 on 'The Question of the death penalty' and the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They reiterate their call for the universal abolition of the death penalty, and in the meantime for a moratorium on executions.
Parliament calls on the President of the Philippines to reinstate her decision to end the moratorium on the death penalty, and urgently calls on the Philippines Congress to repeal the law on the reintroduction of the death penalty. It supports the legislative initiative of the Philippines Congress for the abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines. It further calls on the Government and Parliament of the Philippine to take radical steps for the reform of the national law enforcement and criminal justice system.
Finally, MEPs call on the Council and Commission to consider the abolition of the death penalty and a universal moratorium on executions as an essential element in relations between the EU and third countries, raising this issue when concluding or renewing agreements with third countries.
Situation in Burma/Myanmar
In its resolution on Burma, adopted by 74 votes in favour to 3 against with 2 abstentions, Parliament calls on the UN Security Council to address the situation in Burma as a matter of urgency and to empower the UN Secretary-General to mediate in Burma in order to bring about national reconciliation and a transition to democracy, and calls on the UN Security Council to take the necessary measures to impose economic sanctions against Burma in an effort to force change. MEPs condemn the total disregard of the military dictatorship for the welfare of the people of Burma and the Burmese military's brutal campaign involving forcible relocations against several major ethnic groups fighting for autonomy.
Parliament demands the immediate release and full freedom of movement and expression for Aung San Suu Kyi, Hkun Htun Oo, General Hso Hten, other political leaders and all political prisoners held by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). It insists that the SPDC immediately initiate a meaningful dialogue with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic groups to bring about a return to democracy and respect for human rights, including ethnic minority rights and state rights in Burma.
MEPs insist that the EU's Common Policy on Burma be strengthened immediately by: officially stating that the EU will not accept any outcome of the military's National Convention unless the minimum conditions laid down at the Sixth ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Kildare in April 2004 are met, due democratic process is guaranteed and the NLD and other representative pro-democracy parties are free and able to attend; by encouraging a blanket prohibition in Regulation (EC) No 1853/2004 on EU-registered companies making new investments or extending loans to amyl Burmese state-owned enterprises.
Parliament calls for a high-ranking EU envoy to be appointed to work towards securing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Hkun Htun Oo and other political leaders, to develop a comprehensive EU strategy on Burma enabling humanitarian aid to be delivered to the people of Burma from within Burma and through cross-border strategies, and to bring about a transition to democracy and respect for human rights.
MEPs express their deep regret at the fact that the Government of Burma has not yet undertaken all the relevant measures to allow the Joint Government of the Union of Myanmar - International Labour Organization (ILO) Plan of Action for the elimination of Forced Labour Practices in Myanmar to come into force.
Finally, Parliament calls on the European Union to endorse the report and resolution proposed in the report 'Threat to Peace - A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in Burma', and urges all members of the ILO within the EU to seriously review their relations, under Article 33 of the ILO Constitution, with Burma, as called for by the ILO.