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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2407


Senator SIBRAA —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that Australia has recently been elected to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights? Is this election an indication that this Government's international human rights policies are receiving widespread international support?


Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case that Australia was elected on 23 May to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights for a three year term from 1985 to 1987. That 43-member body is the principal multilateral forum for consideration of human rights questions. The widespread support for Australia's election, which was by no means automatic and not a manifestation of some kind of international principle of Buggins' turn, reflects international recognition of the Government's commitment, as Senator Sibraa has said, to promoting human rights as an integral part of its foreign policy. It is worth saying a little more about this. Under both public and confidential procedures the Commission assesses situations of gross violation of human rights in countries as diverse as El Salvador, Chile, Iran, Southern Africa, Cambodia and Afghanistan. Moreover , unique procedures have been developed for addressing violations such as arbitrary or summary executions and disappearances. The Commission is also exploring new fields, such as the relationship between human rights and science and technology, the rights of indigenous populations and international protection for human rights activists. The Commission has also played a central role in drafting international legal instruments. For example, after several years of negotiations the Commission at its most recent session adopted a draft convention against torture which will be considered by the United Nations General Assembly later this year. The Government believes that the constructive and energetic approach to the work of the Commission will not only further Australia's international human rights objectives but also have an important role to play, notwithstanding the Opposition's approach to these matters, in strengthening human rights safeguards within Australia.