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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Promotion and protection of human rights

Permanent Mission of Iceland, Geneva - 60 Session of the Commission on Human Rights

Statement by H.E. Mr. Stefan H. Johannesson, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva, on behalf of the Nordic Countries.

Mr. Chairman,


I have the pleasure of speaking on the issue of fundamental standards of humanity on behalf of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Iceland.


As we all know, many of the most serious violations of human rights take place in situations of internal conflict and disturbances, characterised by disruption of internal order, tensions and acts of violence. These situations are particularly difficult as regards the protection of human rights and international humanitarian law.


By finding ways to ensure that states review legislation that govern conflict situations, public emergency and internal strife, one would enhance the protection in these circumstances. However, as repeatedly stated, legislation in it itself is not sufficient to protect individuals, the legislation needs to be effectively implemented. Ways of ensuring implementation of existing norms of protection is, in our understanding, the core element in the work relating to fundamental standards of humanity.


Mr. Chairman,


The issue of fundamental standards of humanity has been on the Commission’s agenda since 1995. During this period, the Secretary-General has submitted to the Commission several reports on the subject, which all have proven useful. This year’s report, contained in document E/CN.4/2004/90, reflects relevant recent developments in relation to the protection of the individual in all situations.


The report contains a useful analysis of jurisprudence from the international tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and offers an indication of the legal development in this area.


We also welcome the report’s emphasis on practical measures in the implementation of fundamental standards of humanity, such as strengthening the human rights culture within the armed forces, application of the Norms and Standards Protecting Children in Armed Conflict and agreements concluded at the field level that contribute to the promotion of  international humanitarian law and human rights law.


The entry into force of the Statute of the International Criminal Court will have significant impact on the discussions on fundamental standards of humanity. The adoption by the Human Rights Committee of General Comment No 29 on article four of the Covenant on Civil and Political rights is also an important contribution to the clarification of relevant standards.


Mr. Chairman,

Ensuring that non-state actors comply with fundamental standards and safeguards represents an important challenge. Fundamental standards of humanity is a comprehensive concept, which covers the various forms of individual responsibility for all actors under international criminal law. This includes, as stated in the Statute of the International Criminal Court, genocide, war crimes, other violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.  


Mr. Chairman,

While the above mentioned developments have contributed to clarification of various uncertainties, there are still important issues that require further consideration. In this context, we look forward to the ICRC study on international humanitarian law that will provide further guidance.


Thank you.


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