March 19, 2002
How the Vatican
Views Meeting of U.N. Rights Panel
Interview with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
VATICAN CITY (Zenit.org) - Two topics are
grabbing the attention of the U.N. Human Rights Commission at its annual
One is the Middle East, and the other is how to strike a balance between
fighting terrorism while at the same protecting human rights.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Vatican permanent observer at the U.N. headquarters
in Geneva, told Vatican Radio what is at stake at the meeting, which opened
today in Geneva.
Q: What will be the most complex issues?
Archbishop Martin: Obviously, the situation in the Middle East will be a
difficult question to address, but the follow-up to the Durban conference
against racism will also be a delicate issue. Moreover, there are many topics
that will be addressed, which affect United Nations procedures and mechanisms.
Q: It is commonly affirmed that the Sept. 11 attacks have profoundly modified
the scale of priorities at the global level. Isn't there a risk that this new
international situation will damage the defense and promotion of human rights,
especially in some difficult areas of the planet?
Archbishop Martin: It should be recalled that the struggle against terrorism
represents a struggle for the state of law. Therefore, it should be a struggle
for the full extension and full respect of human rights.
These tensions in the community of nations have manifested themselves since
Sept. 11. The struggle against terrorism is necessary and must be carried out
with vigor and force, but respect for the rights of individuals involved in this
situation is also necessary.
Q: For the first time, the United States has not been elected a member of the
Commission on Human Rights. What repercussions could this exclusion have on the
work of that institution?
Archbishop Martin: It certainly is possible that some resolutions, which in the
past were sponsored by the United States, will not have the same support. In any
case, I think the United States should be present in a Commission on Human
Rights. Its contribution is important.
Q: What are the fundamental points to which the Vatican will be committed in
this working session of the Geneva Commission?
Archbishop Martin: Traditionally, we have addressed the issue of religious
liberty, which is even more important this year, precisely after Sept. 11, in
part to try to foster dialogue between religions.
We have always started with a topic related to poverty, as we believe that
people who live in conditions of poverty are not able to realize themselves
completely and to fully exercise their rights. I would also like to emphasize
the issue of emigrants, because emigration is increasingly a natural element in
a global society.
However, in the present situation, the condition of emigrants is still very
vulnerable, even in those places where they make an essential contribution to
the economic and social growth of the country in which they have been received.
Q: Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced that
she will not be available again for a new mandate. How do you evaluate the work
done over these years by the former Irish president?
Archbishop Martin: I think she has done a very solid job. The media highlights
the way in which she has struggled with force, even against powerful countries.
However, the silent work she has done daily, reinforcing the structures of her
institution, as well as the structures of different countries where problems
have been registered, must not be forgotten.
I think Mrs. Robinson is leaving her successor a much stronger, more prestigious
and more effective institution.