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World churches welcome new human rights convention

 International church and ecumenical organizations have welcomed the adoption of a new International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both of which were agreed at the inaugural session of the UN Human Rights Council which concluded in Geneva on 30 June 2006. Five church-related organizations - the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Franciscans International, Dominicans for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International - had earlier submitted a joint statement to the UN Council urging the adoption of these measures, and have been at the forefront of civil society advocacy on these issues in recent years. "The adoption of this convention confirms a positive development in international law towards the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparation," said Dr Guillermo Kerber, the WCC programme executive responsible for human rights and impunity issues. "It also signals that the newly-formed UN Human Rights Council is able to act decisively in support of the fundamental dignity and rights of people, and to confront impunity, and this is to be applauded." The church organizations also noted that NGOs enjoyed a high degree of access to the discussions in the context of the Council's first session, and they welcomed this transparency. "We very much hope that this openness to civil society, and the interactive nature of this session, are signs of how the Human Rights Council will conduct itself in the future," said Mr Peter N. Prove assistant to the LWF general secretary for international affairs and human rights, who also paid tribute to the "skilful stewardship" of the presidency of the first session. "It is hoped that this Convention will go a long way in eliminating impunity and bringing peace to the families of the disappeared," said Etienne De Jonghe, secretary general of Pax Christi International. The convention recognizes the "extreme seriousness of enforced disappearance, which constitutes a crime and, in certain circumstances defined in international law, a crime against humanity" and holds states accountable for taking effective measures to prevent such disappearances. Likewise, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms unequivocally that "indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms," and holds states responsible for realizing this. In their joint statement to the UN Council, the WCC, the LWF, Franciscans International, Dominicans for Justice and Peace, and Pax Christi International committed themselves to working with the new Human Rights Council "as a key international instrument for the promotion of justice and human dignity". The five organizations also underscored that the Council will be judged by whether it "actually increases the chances for life in dignity and in sustainable communities for people suffering discrimination, deprivation, oppression and violence." Source: WCC