Letter to H.E. Pasteur Bizimungu, President of the Republic, 23 April 1998.
According to our information, some twenty-three persons are scheduled for public execution tomorrow in your country. We appeal to you to commute these sentences to life imprisonment, and not to go ahead with these executions.
As you know, the World Council of Churches has been supportive of your government in many ways, among them calling insistently and repeatedly upon the international community to provide you with the necessary assistance to restore an effective judiciary and prison system. Most recently, we have worked with Mr. Kagame to promote with the Commission of the European Communities the adoption of a major programme of assistance for recovery from the destruction of the genocide and for the forward-looking development of the nation. We have sought in every way available to us to assist you and the people of Rwanda directly in your efforts for justice and reconciliation.
The policy of the WCC, however, is clear with respect to the application of the death penalty. We oppose it on theological, moral and ethical grounds. We are also convinced, out of long experience of working with traumatized societies, that the death penalty contributes nothing to justice and poses barriers to reconciliation. We believe that for you to apply it would also severely damage the positive international relations you have worked so tirelessly to build.
In this appeal we do not single out Rwanda for criticism. We have recently made similar appeals to leaders of other countries, including the United States of America. It is as friends and supporters that we implore you to give a sign of wisdom and generosity to the world by commuting these sentences.
Dwain C. Epps
Coordinator, International Affairs
Appeal to accelerate adoption of the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Letter to H.E. José Urrutia, Ambassador of Peru to the UN in Geneva and chair of the UN Inter-sessional Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, 24 May 1996.
The World Council of Churches has been closely following the drafting process of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The WCC has supported the participation of Indigenous Peoples in the development of the draft text and was pleased when, after twelve years of negotiation, the text was finally received by the Commission on Human Rights.
The draft of the Declaration is now in the hands of the inter-sessional working group of the Commission, established in accordance with the Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/32 of 3rd March 1995, which had its first meeting in November 1995. The WCC will continue to cooperate in its work in every appropriate way.
It is the WCC’s understanding that this text represents the minimum standards for the survival of Indigenous Peoples. The accelerated deterioration of living conditions (health, education and housing), the threat to land rights and particularly sacred sites, and controversies surrounding the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples in different parts of the globe, underlines the urgent need for this instrument.
The WCC therefore urges the governments involved in the inter-sessional working group to complete speedily its work so that the declaration may be submitted to the Commission, to ECOSOC and the General Assembly for adoption by member states without unnecessary delay.
It is our hope and conviction that this instrument will be a strong and effective complement to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It holds out for Indigenous Peoples the promise for long-delayed justice and peace.
Rights of the Child
Call to churches to defend and protect children
Responding to the dramatic and violent situation in which millions of children around the world live, and the urgent request from children for the churches’ commitment and spiritual leadership in the search for solutions to their problems, on recommendation of the Unit IV Committee, the Central Committee … calls on member churches and related agencies to continue to mobilize their human, moral and material resources to defend and protect the life and integrity of children; and … requests Unit IV to continue supporting advocacy work and networking for the rights of children with the direct involvement of children’s organizations around the world.
Adopted by the Central Committee, Geneva, 11-19 September 1997.
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child, the (Central Committee):
encourages member churches to monitor the implementation of the convention on the Rights of the Child by their governments;
urges member churches together with their ecumenical agencies and partners to present independent information to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in their country;
(urges the Council to) work with member churches and ecumenical partners to facilitate a consultation of children and adults working with marginalised children by the year 2000, to evaluate the implementation of the Convention in their countries and the role played by churches to create new attitudes and conditions in favour of marginalized children;
address the many and complex issues surrounding the question of child labor, considering seriously the perspective of children;
develop an ecumenical strategy and statement calling for the improvement of child worker conditions to be presented in Harare;
support the child workers in the process of reviewing the existing international legislation with appropriate legal representation and combating the exploitative and abusive forms of child labor, (and)
In view of the damage done (by participation in war) to children, their development and the future wellbeing of their community,
asks member churches to encourage their national governments to support the addition to the Convention on the Rights of the Child of a clause raising the age of conscription to 18 years.