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UN panel voices concern at rights violations in Myanmar, Iran and North Korea

Source: United Nations, Sixty-second General Assembly, Third Committee, 49th & 50th Meetings (AM & PM)


Draft resolutions that would have the General Assembly address the human rights situations in three Member States -- Myanmar, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea -- were approved today by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) amid a barrage of objections by many delegations, which maintained that the freshly constituted Human Rights Council was the correct forum to address such concerns.

Several delegations, mindful of the fact that all three drafts had been initiatives of developed countries, protested that the texts also represented an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Member States which was contrary to the principles set out in the United Nations Charter and were politically motivated with no bearing on or real interest in human rights.

In other action, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination by a recorded vote of 172 in favour to 5 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and United States), with 5 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Fiji)(see annex II).  That text would have the General Assembly express the urgent need for the resumption of negotiations within the Middle East peace process and reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to an independent State of Palestine.

In another recorded vote the Committee approved the report of the Human Rights Council on the preparations for the 2009 Durban Review Conference in South Africa by 169 in favour to 2 against (Israel and United States), with 4 abstentions (Australia, Cambodia, Canada and Fiji) (see annex I).  By the terms of that text the Assembly would review progress made on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference against Racism in 2001.

Explaining his position, the representative of the United States said his country opposed the use of limited United Nations resources for such “costly” meetings, while Israel’s representative recalled how the Durban Conference had been a “fiasco” that had targeted one nation and one people -- a reference to itself.

Going to yet another recorded vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution, as orally revised, on Combating defamation of religions by 95 in favour to 52 against, with 30 abstentions (see annex III).  The text would have the Assembly express deep concern about the negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief still in evidence in some regions of the world.  The Assembly would further note with deep concern, the intensification of the campaign to defame religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001.

After rejecting a no-action motion, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the Situation of human rights in Myanmar by a recorded vote of 88 in favour to 24 against, with 66 abstentions (see annex VI).  By that text, the Assembly would strongly condemn the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, and express grave concern about ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, said the draft was an urgent appeal from the international community to the Government of Myanmar to show full respect for the human rights of its people.  The human rights situation had deteriorated since the last time the Assembly considered the issue in Myanmar.  And although some positive steps had been taken by the Government recently, the Assembly could not remain silent on the issue.  Myanmar’s representative said the vote had demonstrated the divisive nature of country-specific resolutions.  He said his country would reject the resolution “and we will not be bound by it”.

Several delegations said human rights issues were better handled by the Human Rights Council, particularly after the Committee itself had approved its institution-building package which established a Universal Periodic Review mechanism whereby the human rights situation in each and every Member State would come under the microscope.  The representative of China voiced opposition to country-specific resolutions aimed at developing countries; her counterpart from Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Committee should be a forum for dialogue, not criticism.  The representative of New Zealand, on the other hand, said that the Assembly had a mandate to consider human rights situations; it had adopted such resolutions for more than 30 years, and countries that had been subjects of such resolutions had since become strong defenders of human rights.

Similar arguments were aired when the Committee took action on a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Iran -- approved by a recorded vote of 72 in favour to 50 against, with 55 abstentions (see annex VIII), after a no-action motion was defeated by the narrowest of margins -- and on the draft on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which was approved by a vote of 97 in favour to 23 against with 60 abstentions (see annex IV).

The representative of Iran was critical of Canada, the main sponsor of the draft on his country, saying Canada’s human rights record was not flawless; he also pointed out what he described as factual errors in the draft.  For his part, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the draft resolution on his country -- put forth by Portugal on behalf of the European Union -- was full of false information and was being pursued for a sinister political purpose.  It was no secret, he said, that such resolutions were used by the West as a way to impose their values on other countries.

The Committee also deferred action on five texts on Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; Rights of the child; From rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; and Elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.

Full text of the proceedings is available on UN's web site.

... Payvand News - 11/22/07 ... --

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