|111th Assembly No.4, Geneva, 1 Ocotober 2004|
Nearly 450 members of parliament from 112 countries have just held meetings as part of the 111th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which took place from 28 September to 1 OOctober 2004 in Geneva. This event addressed four major issues, including one, on Iraq, under the Assembly's procedure for emergency items.
The Assembly's resolution on the situation in Iraq encouraged the United Nations to make use of the expertise of the IPU when holding the international conference to contribute to the establishment of a democratic Iraq. It proposed to the United Nations and the Iraqi institutions a partnership with the IPU in order to assist in the establishment and consolidation of the parliamentary institution, support the new Iraqi parliament during the discussion of the draft constitution and harness parliamentary diplomacy for the benefit of democratisation and regional stability.
In line with the concern expressed at the Meeting of Speakers of Parliaments of the Countries Neighbouring Iraq, held in Amman in May 2004, the resolution underscored the fundamental role that neighbouring countries must play to bring a positive change to the current situation in Iraq, by strengthening the security in the region, easing tensions and providing humanitarian assistance and reconstruction aid to alleviate and bring an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people. It strongly urged all parties "to ensure full respect for human rights", and condemned the killing of innocent Iraqis and other nationals, as well as the continued taking of hostages, including humanitarian aid workers.
The Assembly reaffirmed "the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own political future and control their own natural resources".
In another resolution, the Assembly urged national parliaments "to press their governments to sign, accede to and ratify all conventions, treaties and other international instruments aimed at ensuring non-proliferation, arms control, disarmament and greater international security, and to implement them fully".
It also called for the convocation, under the auspices of the United Nations, of an international conference on combating terrorism, with a view to establishing a clear-cut definition of this serious problem. The resolution urged the bold identification of the most dangerous threats to international order and stability, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the situation in the Darfur region and the Great Lakes region of Africa, and other potentially grave trouble spots in need of urgent political action to prevent conflicts.
Governments, national parliaments and the international community were called upon to address the root causes which create an environment that might lead people to resort to violence at the individual, national and international levels, and governments and multilateral organisations were invited to support efforts "to achieve the immediate cessation of all forms of occupation, as well as to recognise formally the responsibility of all occupying forces to remedy all ills caused by occupation and to act according to international law". In addition, countries were called upon to refrain from using force in the absence of a relevant United Nations Security Council resolution.
A third resolution called on States that have not yet done so to ratify or accede to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, as well as other biodiversity treaties and agreements adopted at international and regional levels. It also requested governments "to take more effective action in implementing the Convention in order to achieve the target set by the World Summit on Sustainable Development of reducing significantly the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010". The Assembly called on governments to take more effective action in incorporating the objectives of biodiversity conservation in all sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, forest and water management, tourism and transportation.
In a resolution on the situation of women, the Assembly called upon parliaments to promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and the reduction of maternal mortality rates. It recommended a stronger presence of women in decision-making structures within national parliaments and inter-parliamentary forums, as well as gender-balanced national representation in foreign parliamentary relations, at both the bilateral and multilateral levels. Parliaments were also requested to play a more active role in the process of gender mainstreaming in every area of life, particularly in the political and economic spheres. The Assembly urged parliamentarians to promote a stronger presence of women in political parties and at all levels of decision-making, for example through the adoption of quota systems or other forms of affirmative action. The resolution requests parliaments to pass laws against all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, incest, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, murder, systematic rape, female genital mutilation and crimes against women committed in the name of honour; to ensure that the laws they pass protect victims and punish perpetrators of violence against women; to monitor the implementation and enforcement of such legislation and allocate resources to programmes aimed at eradicating violence against women. It also urged governments and parties in armed conflicts to respect fully the norms of international humanitarian law and take all measures required for the protection of women and children, in particular to put an end to sexual violence against women and girls, and to ensure that perpetrators of such violence are prosecuted.
The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians held its 107th session during the 111th Assembly. The Committee examined 58 cases in 27 countries, including public cases concerning 126 parliamentarians in 17 countries (Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, Eritrea, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine/Israel, Syrian Arab Republic, Rwanda, Turkey and Zimbabwe).
The Committee sent a mission to Zimbabwe from 28 March to 2 April 2004 to look into the cases of 28 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, and presented a public report. The mission found that allegations of politically motivated arrests, detention and prosecution were well-founded, and that MDC MPs were indeed at continuous risk of arbitrary arrest and detention. The members of the mission were appalled at the high number of beatings, other ill-treatment and torture about which MPs had complained, and which had gone unpunished. However, they also noted that Parliament was a place where the majority and the opposition worked together. In its resolution on this case, the IPU Governing Council called on the ZANU-PF and the MDC to pursue a dialogue, and considered that for it to be meaningful, past injustices needed to be remedied, and everything must be done to avoid such injustices in the future.
The 112th Assembly of the IPU will take place from 3 to 8 April 2005 in Manila (Philippines). The following items will be taken up: Avoiding impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and terrorism; financing and trade, debt and the Millennium Development Goals; and human rights and HIV/AIDS.
At the 111th Assembly, the IPU Governing Council admitted the East African Legislative Assembly and the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as Associate Members.