15 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4056

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

38th Meeting (AM)


Third Committee Approves Resolution That Condemns All Forms of Torture,

 

Calls for Full Implementation of Absolute Prohibition

 


Also Approves Text on Office of High Commissioner for Refugees,

Hears Introduction of 16 Draft Resolutions on Wide Range of Issues


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and call on States to fully implement the absolute, non-derogable prohibition of such abuse.


Introducing the annual text, one of two approved by consensus today, Denmark’s representative said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlined that no one should be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  Yet, the Special Rapporteur devoted to that issue continued to report on torture in all parts of the world. 


By the text, States must take persistent and determined measures to prevent and combat all such acts, the Assembly would emphasize, noting that all acts of torture must be made offences under domestic criminal law punishable by penalties that took into account their grave nature.


By other terms, the Assembly would condemn State attempts to legalize, authorize or acquiesce in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under any circumstances, including national security and counter-terrorism.  States should adopt a victim-oriented approach to combating such abuse, paying special attention to victims’ views in policy development.


By a second text, introduced by Norway’s representative, on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Assembly would strongly condemn attacks on refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, calling on States and parties to armed conflict to take all measures to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.


Also, the Assembly would strongly reaffirm the purely humanitarian and non-political character of the Office’s work in providing protection to refugees and seeking permanent solutions to refugee problems, recalling that solutions included voluntary repatriation and, where appropriate, local integration and resettlement in a third country.  Further, the Assembly would urge all States and relevant organizations to mobilize resources with a view to reducing the heavy burden borne by host countries.


Speaking after action, Kenya’s delegate said that, as a host nation to refugees, Kenya had a unique perspective on how to burden-share.  His Government had presented two proposals — on the safety and security of camps, and on strengthened language for the repatriation of refugees - both of which had been rejected on the grounds they should have been introduced in Geneva, rather than New York.  That amounted to “sacrificing substance at the altar of process”.


Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of 16 other draft texts, as it pressed ahead in its efforts to conclude its work.  They related to:  the right of the Palestinian peoples to self-determination; the impact of globalization on the full enjoyment of all human rights; human rights in the administration of justice; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; human rights and unilateral coercive measures; the right to development; promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all; the right to food; and the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.


Also, the moratorium on the use of the death penalty; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances; and the  situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,  Iran and Syria.


Introducing those draft resolutions were the representatives of Egypt, Austria, Sweden, Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Croatia, France, Cyprus (on behalf of the European Union and Japan), Canada and Qatar.


Taking the floor after those introductions were the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria.


Speaking after action on the two draft resolutions were the representatives of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Greece.


The Committee will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Friday, 16 November, to hear the introduction of and take action on several draft resolutions.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions on the right of peoples to self-determination, human rights questions, and the human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.


It also was expected to take action on two draft resolutions entitled, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/67/L.31), and Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/67/L.26/Rev.1).


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


Introducing two draft resolutions, the representative of Egypt first presented The right of the Palestinian peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/67/L.54), saying that for over six decades the Palestinian people had been suffering under Israeli occupation.  The draft was essentially the same as the one as last year, except for technical updates.  The support by the international community would surely contribute to the right of the Palestinian peoples to self-determination of their own land, with East Jerusalem as their capital.


Then introducing the draft resolution on Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/C.3/67/L.33), he said references were added to the outcome of the 2009 Durban Review Conference and to resolutions on human rights and transnational corporations and contributions of the United Nations systems on business and human rights.  The resolution was a sincere attempt to strengthen the resolve and international cooperation to promote and protect human rights, including through addressing impacts of financial crisis and food insecurity.  It was the co-sponsors attempt to objectively tackle a major phenomenon in our world.


Next, introducing the draft resolution on Human rights in the Administration of Justice (document A/C.3/67/L.34), the representative of Austria said protection of human rights was essential for the rule of law and good governance, and her country had a long history of introducing this text.  This year’s text focused on juvenile justice, which deserved particular attention, as well as overcrowding and the need for appropriate detention conditions.


Sweden’s representative, on behalf of the Nordic countries, then introduced the draft resolution on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (document A/C.3/67/L.36).  The right to life stood at the core of this resolution, which also took note of the report on this regard to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, she said.


A representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, then introduced six texts.  On the text on Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/67/L.37), she said this resolution was introduced annually, and was vital to achieving United Nations principles.


On Human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/C.3/67/L.38), she said under no circumstances could a people be deprived of their own means of development.  The resolution reasserts the need for States to refrain from adopting unilateral measures contrary to international law and creating obstacles to full enjoyment of human rights.


On the right to development (document A/C.3/67L.39), she said it highlighted the importance of development, following up on the work in Geneva of the working group on the right to development.  There had been insufficient effort to implement that real and important right.  In the coming years, the Committee would take initiative on this important initiative by the Non-Aligned Movement.


On promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all (document A/C.3/67/L.41), a different representative of Cuba said all States policies should be aimed at eliminating the threat of war and settling disputes peacefully.  He thanked all delegations that traditionally supported the resolution, and hoped this resolution would enjoy majority support.


On the right to food (A/C.3/67/L.42), the first representative of Cuba said this right was broadly accepted internationally, but the number of those without adequate food had increased to more than 780 million during the current financial crisis.  She called upon other Member States to reassert their commitment that all people had the right to nutritious food and to not suffer from hunger.


On promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (document A/C.3/67/L.43), she said this resolution took into account current crises in particularly affected countries that were not responsible for the crises.


Next, the representative of Croatia introduced the text Moratorium on the use of the death penalty (document A/C.3/67/L.44).  As reflected by the report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly, she was encouraged by the growth of countries establishing a moratorium on the death penalty.  This resolution intended to build on that momentum, she said.


France’s representative then introduced the text International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (document A/C.3/67/L.53).  Two years ago, the Convention came into force, he said, contributing to helping victims significantly.  The draft resolution invited the Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to once again participate in an interactive dialogue with others.


The representative of Cyprus then introduced two draft resolutions on behalf of the European Union.  On the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/67/L.49), she said this year’s resolution had been drafted amid the background of substantial changes in the country, including political reforms and engagement with the international community.  As a result, there was an agreement with the Government on the resolution that reflected important steps to be addressed.


Turning to the Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/67/L.50), speaking also on behalf of Japan, she said the General Assembly had adopted resolutions on the matter due to grave concerns over persistent violations that were well-documented in reports by the Special Rapporteur and the Secretary-General.  The resolution noted very few developments, and there had been no substantial changes on the ground in the inhumane conditions of detention, collective punishment, forced labour and extrajudicial executions, and there was, as well, worry over reports of widespread prison camps.  The resolution expressed regret that, despite appeals to the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it did not cooperate with the special procedures.  The resolution strongly urged the Government to put an end to widespread violations and grant access to the country, engage in technical cooperation activities with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and ensure full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian aid.  It also called on the Government to resolve matters of international concern, including abduction of foreign nationals.


Taking the floor, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea categorically rejected the draft resolution submitted by the European Union and Japan as nothing more than a fabricated approach, politically motivated to isolate and stifle his country.  The main motivation was to create an atmosphere of pressure against his country and its socialist system.  In fact, most of the human rights violations debated in the Committee were quite alien to his country.  Other countries should reflect on their own human rights records.  It rejected all country-specific resolutions, which incited confrontation.


Next, the representative of Canada introduced the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/67/L.51).  He noted many disturbing human rights violations in the country, which deserved continuing international attention.  The resolution called on Iran to address concerns highlighted in the reports of the Special Rapporteur and the Secretary-General, free all those arbitrarily detained, eliminate discrimination against women and other minority and religious groups, hold free and fair elections, and cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.


Taking the floor, Iran’s representative said this resolution satisfied only the narrow interests of a few countries.  If Canada was really concerned about human rights, it was better to start at home with Canadian natives and other minorities.  Iran requested all to consider the politicized nature of the move and reject the resolution.


Lastly, the representative of Qatar introduced the draft resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Syria (document A/C.3/67/L.52).  The deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria was mainly due to the Government’s use of violence against its own people.  Tens of thousands had lost their lives - most of them civilians - through the use of heavy weapons, massacres, extrajudicial executions and torture.  That required a quick response by the General Assembly, in light of the level of the grave crimes being committed, he said.  The evidence of crimes against humanity had been put forward by several independent reports.  He called upon Syrian authorities to immediately end all crimes against civilians, and to deliver the necessary humanitarian and medical assistance by cooperating with relevant United Nations and international authorities.


Taking the floor, Syria’s representative said this draft resolution had not been put forward to protect rights in his country, but was part of a campaign to end its independence and prevent it from forging ahead with its national agenda, and was not in keeping with the United Nations Charter, which respected territorial integrity.  The co-sponsors of the draft resolution were not models to follow in the field of human rights, he said.


Action on Draft Resolutions


The Committee then turned its attention to a draft resolution entitled Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/67/L.31), which was introduced by the representative of Norway.  She said it was an annual text that reaffirmed key humanitarian principles, and focused on humanitarian response and the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  It expressed a common commitment to protection and finding solutions to people in need.  Birth registration, rescue at sea and arbitrary detention were key issues addressed.  It was traditionally adopted by consensus and she hoped that would be the case again this year.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.


By the text, the Assembly would welcome the important work undertaken by the Office and its Executive Committee in the course of the year, which was aimed at strengthening the international protection regime and assisting Governments in meeting their protection responsibilities.  It would take note of the Office’s activities related to protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons, including in the context of inter-agency arrangements, emphasizing that they should be consistent with relevant General Assembly resolutions and not undermine the Office’s refugee mandate.


By other terms, the Assembly would encourage the Office to continue to work with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian response.  Strongly condemning attacks on refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, the Assembly would call on States and parties to armed conflict to take all measures to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.  It also would welcome pledges by States to ensure the birth registration of all children.  Elsewhere, it would strongly reaffirm the purely humanitarian and non-political character of the Office’s work in providing international protection to refugees and seeking permanent solutions to refugee problems, recalling that solutions included voluntary repatriation and, where appropriate, local integration and resettlement in a third country.


By final terms, the Assembly would urge all States and relevant organizations, along with the Office, in a spirit of burden- and responsibility-sharing, to mobilize resources with a view to enhancing the capacity of and reducing the heavy burden borne by host countries.  It would call on the Office to explore ways and means to broaden its donor base, so as to achieve greater burden-sharing by reinforcing cooperation with Government donors, non-governmental donors and the private sector.  It also would recognize that adequate and timely resources were essential for the Office to continue fulfilling its mandate, urging Governments and other donors to respond promptly to annual and supplementary appeals issued by the Office for requirements under its programmes.


Speaking after action, Kenya’s delegate said the Office carried out an important mandate that must be supported by all, and that the text provided an excellent approach to dealing with refugees.  He thanked Norway for the transparency of the negotiation process.  Kenya recognized that today’s text was one of only a few that had been dealt with in both Geneva and New York.  As a nation continuing to shoulder the burden of hosting refugees, Kenya had a unique perspective, including in providing proposals on how to burden-share.  With that in mind, Kenya had presented two proposals during the negotiations, one on the safety and security of camps, and one on strengthened language for the repatriation of refugees.  Those issues were pertinent in Africa.  Both proposals had been rejected on the grounds that they should have been introduced in Geneva.  The rejection amounted to “sacrificing substance at the altar of process”.


The Committee next turned to a draft resolution entitled Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/67/L.26/Rev.1), which was introduced by Denmark’s representative, who said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlined, in article 5, that no one should be subjected to such abuse.  That had been reaffirmed in all subsequent human rights instruments.  Despite that, the Special Rapporteur continued to report on torture in all parts of the world.  The draft resolution was the result of several open-ended consultations with delegations and a number of bilateral meetings.  Throughout negotiations, it had been a shared goal to maintain the draft resolution as a consensus text.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.


By its terms, the Assembly would condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which were and should remain prohibited at any time and in any place and could thus never be justified.  States

would be called upon to fully implement the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  They also must take persistent and determined measures to prevent and combat all such acts, the Assembly would emphasize, noting that all acts of torture must be made offences under domestic criminal law punishable by penalties that took into account their grave nature.


Further to the text, the Assembly would call on States to adopt a victim-oriented approach in the fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  It would emphasize that acts of torture in armed conflict were serious violations of international humanitarian law and constituted war crimes; that such acts could constitute crimes against humanity; and that perpetrators must be prosecuted and punished.  States would be urged not to expel, return (“refouler”), extradite or in any other way transfer a person to another State where there were substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, stressing the importance of legal and procedural safeguards in that regard.


By final terms, the Assembly would urge all States to become parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and consider signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol thereto.  States would be called on to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in supplying all information requested and following up on his urgent appeals.  The Assembly would appeal to States and organizations to contribute annually to the National Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.  It also would decide to consider at its sixty-eighth session the reports of the Secretary-General, the report of the Committee against Torture, the report of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the interim report of the Special Rapporteur.


Speaking after action, the representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said Egypt’s representative had asked the secretariat to reflect the official title and name of her country as a co-sponsor to resolution A/C.3/67/L.54.  According to Security Council resolution 817 (1993), it was stated that the country would be provisionally referred to with a reference in quotation marks, pending the settlement of the issue between the concerned States.  The provisions of that resolution had made it clear there was a difference between the provisional reference and the name of the State.  Since admission to the United Nations, her country had used its constitutional name in all relations with the United Nations.  Her country’s official, constitutional name was Republic of Macedonia and had been recognized by over 130 countries.  Her country’s right to use that name had also been confirmed undisputedly by the International Court of Justice in its 5 December 2011 judgement on the case which “Macedonia” had brought before it against Greece.


Greece’s delegate reminded the Committee that, according to Security Council resolution 817 (1993) and General Assembly resolution 225 (1993), that country would be provisionally referred to as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Thus, he appealed to all States to use the proper name of that country, in line with those resolutions.


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