Subject: AFP: Timor marks Human Rights Day with commitment to rights treaties

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP) Date: 10 Dec 2002

East Timor marks Human Rights Day with commitment to rights treaties

DILI, Dec 10 (AFP) - East Timor, the world's youngest nation, on Tuesday marked international Human Rights Day by committing itself to a package of human rights treaties.

"If any country in the world knows the meaning of human rights, it is Timor-Leste," President Xanana Gusmao told a ceremony to mark International Human Rights Day.

He said that the right to freedom for East Timor had been won after a long struggle and the sacrifice of thousands of people.

Gusmao was for more than 10 years the leader of guerrilla resistance against Indonesian rule.

Gusmao said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared 54 years ago was based on the realization that peace can be attained if and when human rights and fundamental freedoms are upheld.

"In Timor-Leste, we recognize this as well, which is why the universal declaration is enshrined in our constitution and why it is my honour to sign a document today committing Timor-Leste to a package of international human rights treaties that have sprung from the declaration," he said.

He said the ratification of the treaties was a solemn commitment to the people of East Timor, and as a UN member, to implement human rights principles and standards.

But he warned that developing a culture of respect for human rights in practice as well as in theory would not happen overnight.

"It must begin with respect for the rule of law and this requires laws and institutions that administer them to operate professionally, efficiently and with commitment," he said.

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