19 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4091

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

47th & 48th Meetings (AM & PM)


Delegates Hail Human Rights Improvements in Myanmar as Third Committee


Approves 8 Draft Resolutions, including 4 Country-Specific Texts


Recognizing the positive economic and political development occurring in Myanmar, speakers called today upon the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) to discontinue future action on the relevant draft resolution, as it took action on four country-specific texts.


“We have opted for cooperation rather than confrontation,” Myanmar’s representative said after the Committee approved the draft resolution on the human rights situation in his country without a vote.  By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would welcome the Government’s stated commitment to continue on the path of political and economic reform, democratization and national reconciliation, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights.  However, it would urge the Government of Myanmar to accelerate efforts to address the discrimination, violence, displacement and economic deprivation affecting various ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State.


Representatives of several other Member States also welcomed the positive developments in Myanmar’s human rights situation, with some saying there would be no need to approve the text in future.  However, Djibouti’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), called on the Government to address the resentment towards Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.  Alongside the representatives of Egypt, India and Albania, she urged the Government to ensure respect for ethnic minorities, their holy cites and cemeteries, cautioning that failure to do so might undermine national democratization efforts.


By a recorded vote of 123 in favour to 13 against, with 46 abstentions, the Committee also approved a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Syria.  By its terms, the General Assembly would strongly condemn the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and Government-affiliated shabbiha militias.  It would also strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and demand that the Government implement the relevant resolutions and decisions of United Nations bodies and of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).


The Committee also approved — by a recorded vote of 83 in favour to 36 against, with 62 abstentions — a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Iran.  By its terms, the General Assembly would call upon that country’s Government to eliminate any form of torture, abolish the execution of minors and eliminate all forms of discrimination and other human rights violations against women and girls.  It would further call on the Government to fulfil pledges by the new President to ensure greater space for freedom of expression and opinion.  It would also urge the Government to deepen its engagement with United Nations human rights mechanisms.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  By that text, the General Assembly would strongly urge the country’s Government immediately to end grave violations of human rights and to extend its full cooperation to the Special Rapporteur and the commission of inquiry appointed by the Human Rights Council, including by granting them full, free and unimpeded access to the country, among other provisions.


Also without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolutions on the following subjects: Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa; universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination; effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; and the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa.


Introducing draft resolutions for the Committee’s consideration were representatives of Bolivia, Djibouti, Argentina and Qatar.


Also during today’s meeting, several delegates condemned the terrorist attacks against Iran’s embassy in Beirut.


Speaking today were representatives of Lithuania (on behalf of the European Union), Argentina, Spain, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Norway, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Canada, China, Singapore, Israel, Egypt, India, Albania, Turkey, Burundi, Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Belarus, Pakistan, Chile, Iraq, Nigeria, Switzerland, Indonesia, Serbia, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand and Liechtenstein.


The Third Committee will meet again on Thursday, 21 November, to take action on outstanding draft resolutions.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions and to take action on others.


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The representative of Bolivia introduced a draft titled “Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (document A/C.3/68/L.30).


The representative of Argentina presented a text titled “Right to the Truth” (document A/C.3/68/L.43).


The representatives of Djibouti submitted, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a draft on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief” (document A/C.3/68/L.48).


The representative of Qatar tabled a draft resolution titled “United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region” (document A/C.3/68/L.52).


Action on Drafts


The Committee postponed action on a draft resolution “Promoting social integration through social inclusion” (document A/C.3/68/L.11/Rev.1) because a paragraph was missing from the text.


Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved a draft titled “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa” (document A/C.3/68/L.71), as orally revised.


The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, called for a more inclusive consultative process next year in order to strengthen the text.


Acting again without a vote, the Committee then approved a draft titled “Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/68/L.67).


The representative of Argentina expressed support for all peoples subjected to colonial domination and foreign occupation, emphasizing that their right to self-determination must be interpreted in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV), 2625 (XXV) and other relevant texts.  Self-determination required a people subjected to alien subjugation, domination or exploitation, as required by operative paragraph 1 of resolution 1514 (XV), without which subject there was no right to self-determination, he argued.  Likewise, the text just approved must be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization.


The representative of Spain, describing self-determination as a precondition for respecting human rights, said the colonial situation of Gibraltar was detrimental to his country’s territorial integrity and asked the United Kingdom to pursue dialogue on that issue in the Special Committee on Decolonization.


The representative of the United States said the text contained many misstatements of international law.


The representative of the United Kingdom reaffirmed her country’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, while reiterating its commitment to open dialogue with the Gibraltarian people and with Spain.


Taking up a draft on “Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” (document A/C.3/68/L.51*), the Committee approved it without a vote, as orally revised.


It then took up a draft titled “Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa” (document A/C.3/68/L.54), approving it without a vote. 


The Committee then took up a text titled “Situation of human rights in Myanmar” (document A/C.3/68/L.55/Rev.1).


The representative of the United States noted with pleasure the progress made in the protection and promotion of human rights, including the recent release of 69 political prisoners.  Challenges remained, however, including the spread of anti-Muslim sentiment and the need to bring human rights perpetrators to justice, she said, expressing support for the establishment of a fully mandated country office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in that country.


Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved the text, as orally amended, as well as its related programme budget implications (document A/C.3/68/L.76).


The representative of Myanmar said his Government opposed selective, country-specific resolutions in principle, emphasizing that the universal periodic review was the appropriate mechanism for dealing with the human rights situation in each country.  Myanmar had reached out to the international community and engaged in bilateral dialogues with the United States, Japan and the European Union, based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue, he noted.  “We have opted for cooperation rather than confrontation.”  In keeping with that stance, the Government of Myanmar had refrained from calling for a recorded vote.


He said that although the text contained many paragraphs welcoming positive developments, not everything was agreeable to his delegation.  Some paragraphs included sensitive, undesirable language.  Regarding the communal violence in Ra khine State, he it was not an attack against a certain religious group.  Given ongoing efforts, there would no longer be a need for the resolution, and the time had come to remove the mandate of a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.


Several representatives, including those of Japan and Brazil, welcomed ongoing efforts by the Government of Myanmar, calling for further improvements and continuing reform.


Representatives of Australia, Thailand, Philippines and Norway, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Viet Nam and the Russian Federation, welcomed positive developments in the human rights situation in Myanmar, with some of them saying there would be no need to approve the text in future.


The representative of Canada welcomed many reform initiatives, including the dialogue between the Government and ethnic armed groups, but voiced concern over ethnic and religious clashes, saying Canada continued to support reconciliation.


The representative of China said the international community should let Myanmar choose its own path and refrain from adopting a country-specific text.


The representative of Singapore said that consideration of the human rights situation in each country should be taken up in the universal periodic review and the Human Rights Council.  Singapore abstained from all country-specific resolutions, but went along with the text.  The representative of Venezuela similarly rejected selective, country-specific resolutions.


The representative of Israel said the positive developments in Myanmar might obviate the need for the resolution.


The representative of Djibouti, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Group (OIC), called on the Government to address the root causes of the deep-rooted resentment towards the Rohingya minority.


Representative of Egypt, India and Albania, also expressed concern over the Rohingya minority and urged the Government to step up efforts to address the root causes of religious discrimination and ensure respect for ethnic minorities, their holy cites and cemeteries, failing which might undermine Myanmar’s democratization process.


The representative of Burundi clarified that her delegation had wished to abstain rather than to vote against the amendment to paragraph 11 of the draft on “Strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization” (document A/C.3/68/L.41), during the recorded vote of 15 November.


The Committee then took up three draft resolutions on the human rights situations in Syria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, respectively.


The representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called on all Member States to vote against those country-specific drafts, reiterating the Movement’s position against selectivity and politically motivated actions.


The Committee then took up the draft on human rights in Syria.


The representative of Iran urged delegations to vote against the text and warned that the Committee had been exploited by countries breaching universality, non-selectivity and objectivity.  The universal periodic review provided a mechanism by which all Member States could address human rights issues on an equal basis.  The draft did not mention Israeli attacks against Syria, or human rights violations by certain terrorist groups, he said, adding that it also failed to assign responsibility for the use chemical weapons to Syrian armed groups.


The representative of Syria, calling for a recorded vote, expressed “deep sadness” over the failure of his counterpart from Saudi Arabia, who had just introduced the text, to “read my mind” before taking the floor.  The Saudi Arabian delegate, who had “never consulted with me” over the draft, was not only interfering in Syria’s internal affairs, but also “with my thoughts”.  The Saudi Arabian delegate was least entitled to speak about human rights due to that country’s “black” record in that regard, he stressed.


The representative of Nicaragua, associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was regrettable that the Committee was being used by politically motivated countries, adding that her delegation rejected that practice.


The representative of Qatar said human rights violations in Syria were the motive for submitting the draft resolution.  The General Assembly could not accept the situation, and Member States should therefore vote in favour of the text.


The representative of Turkey categorically rejected a statement made by one delegation.


The representative of Venezuela emphasized that she would vote against the text, in accordance with the principle of international cooperation, not selectivity.


The representative of C ôte d’Ivoire said his delegation was withdrawing as a co-sponsor of the draft.


The representative of Ecuador said he would vote against the draft due mainly to the imbalance of language on perpetrators, stressing that the text did not take all parties responsible for violations into account.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he would vote against the draft resolution, describing the text as anachronistic and politically motivated.  Human rights could not be imposed from outside, he stressed, calling for impartiality and non-selectivity.


The representative of Belarus said he would vote against the text because country-specific resolutions were outdated and unlikely to facilitate solutions.


The representative of Cuba said she would vote against it because her delegation did not agree with language condemning the Government of Syria.


The representative of Nigeria said he would abstain, although his delegation supported the text because the human rights situation in Syria was not acceptable.  However, he stressed the importance of dialogue and objectivity on the part of all concerned.


By a recorded vote of 123 in favour to 13 against, with 46 abstentions, the Committee then approved the text titled “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.3/68/L.42/Rev.1).


The representative of Pakistan said he had voted in favour due to human rights and humanitarian concerns, but determining responsibility for the use of chemical weapons must await conclusive evidence.


The representative of Chile underlined the need to bring perpetrators from whichever side — Government or opposition — to justice, also expressing hope for a world free of chemical weapons, and calling for an inclusive political solution.


The representative of Iraq said he had voted in favour, but voiced reservations about the language contained in a preambular paragraph.


The representative of Brazil said he had voted in favour, but opposed the method used in drafting the text.  He called for open, democratic consideration of the text.


The representative of Indonesia expressed concern over counter-productive country-specific resolutions, while emphasizing that, given the urgent human rights and humanitarian situations, her delegation had voted in favour.


The representative of Syria categorically rejected language condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government, saying they had been brought into the country by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.  The text just approved was last thing needed to end Syria’s predicament, he said, criticizing Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey for hypocrisy and double standards.


The representative of Argentina said the text contained extremely important elements addressing issues of concern, but her delegation disagreed with some aspects of it.  Grave violations committed by opposition groups must be reflected in a balanced manner, she emphasized, noting that the text suggested that responsibility for the use of chemical weapons rested with the Syrian Government.  The assignment of such responsibility should be left to a judicial institution.


The representative of Serbia said he had voted in favour, aware of the deteriorating situation in Syria, but the Third Committee had no mandate to deal with the question of chemical weapons use.


The representative of Singapore said she had abstained, but her delegation was deeply concerned about the situation in Syria and condemned the use of chemical weapons.


The representative of the Russian Federation said he had voted against the text, and warned against attempts to transform the Third Committee into a body for rubber-stamping politically motivated actions.  The text undermined the Russian Federation-United States framework for dealing with chemical weapons in Syria, he cautioned.


The representative of China called for the early convening of Geneva II.


The representative of Switzerland said her delegation had co-sponsored the draft resolution and called upon the Security Council to refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court.


The representative of Liechtenstein also said his country had co-sponsored the text, but expressed regret that the question of accountability had continued to be sidelined during negotiations on the text.  The Security Council should refer the case to the International Criminal Court, he added.


The Committee then took up the draft titled “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (document A/C.3/68/L.56).


The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea totally rejected the draft, describing as an attempt by the United States to undermine his country’s social system.  Since it had first been approved in 2005, the Democratic People’s Republic had spoken on several occasions about its negative impact on the promotion and protection of human rights, he recalled.  The United States and its followers were putting pressure on small developing countries to approve the text as part of its hostile policy and a conspiracy by the European Union.  The draft resolution blocked dialogue and resulted in confrontation, he said, calling it a “smoke screen” for the desire of the United States for change in the region.


The representative of Japan underlined his delegation’s support for the draft, saying the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a serious concern for the international community, and because 12 of the 17 Japanese citizens abducted had not been returned.


Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved the text.


Representatives of Iran, Russian Federation, Venezuela and Syria disassociated their respective delegations from the draft resolution, reiterating their position against country-specific resolutions, and reaffirming that the Human Rights Council and its universal periodic review mechanism were the appropriate forum and framework for addressing the promotion and protection of human rights.


The representative of Brazil noted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had signed the Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but expressed concern over the humanitarian situation, urging Member States to continue to provide assistance.


The representative of Singapore said that despite its opposition to country-specific resolution, there was general agreement with the text, which was why she had joined the consensus.


The representative of Belarus disassociated herself from the consensus and rejected the country-specific resolution, saying it had not led to productive dialogue.  Rather, the work of the Special Rapporteur had significant implications for the United Nations budget.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he totally rejected and disassociated his delegation from the text, emphasizing that there were no human rights violation in his country.  He said the text would result in a further deterioration of the relationship between his country and the European Union, exacerbating the situation on the Korean peninsula.  Turning to the allegations made by Japan’s delegate, he cited the 8.5 million Koreans abducted by Japan in the past, as well as the issue of “comfort women”.


The representative of China disassociated his delegation from the consensus, saying human rights issues should be addressed through dialogue.  China opposed the politicization of human rights, and the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be assessed in an objective manner, he said, calling for greater attention to the country’s economic and social development challenges.


The Committee then took up the text titled “Situation of human rights in Iran” (document A/C.3/68/L.57*).


The representative of Iran expressed outrage over today’s terrorist attack against his country’s embassy in Beirut, saying it was another case of his country and people being targeted.  Developments in Iran had either been ignored or misrepresented by Canada, drafter of the text, because the recent presidential election was a clear example of the country’s democratization.  In addition, Canada had a horrifying record of violating the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities at home, and had also denied consular services to hundreds of thousands of Iranians living there following its abrupt diplomatic rapture with Iran.  Canada had also brushed off Iran’s distinctive democratic nature and the high presence of Iranian women in society.


The representative of Syria said it was inappropriate to take action on the text on the same day as the terrorist attack, and called upon the Security Council to issue a presidential statement.  Syria rejected intervention in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of human rights, he added, stressing that the Human Rights Council and the universal periodic review were the appropriate mechanisms for objective assessment of national human rights situations.


The representative of Belarus said global human rights issues should be considered as part of a constructive and non-politicized dialogue.  Reiterating the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, she said Iran had undergone the universal periodic review and implemented its recommendations.  Iran enjoyed one of the highest human development indices of the Middle East, making it a region leader in socioeconomic development.  The draft resolution was being used to exert pressure on Iran, she said, adding that it was also a way to justify sanctions imposed on the country.


The representative of Cuba, Venezuela and the Russian Federation reiterated their opposition to against country-specific resolutions, saying they did not contribute to an environment of dialogue and mutual understanding.  The Human Rights Council and the universal periodic review were essential in offering the possibility of considering all human right situations in all countries, while guaranteeing non-selectivity and impartiality.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed concern over the lack of impartiality on human rights issues, noting that the politically motivated targeting of some countries undermined trust among potential partners.  He said that since his country opposed politicization and double standards, he would vote against the text.


The representative of Djibouti, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the draft contradicted the spirit of cooperation and did not reflect the real situation of human rights in the country.


The representative of Ecuador expressed full support for the work of the Human Rights Council as the competent body to deal with human rights issues, particularly through the universal periodic review and other appropriate mechanisms.  Ecuador rejected the harassment of some countries for political reasons, he said, explaining that he would vote against the draft resolution.


The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 83 in favour to 36 against, with 62 abstentions.


The representative of Indonesia welcomed the pledges by the new administration in Iran on the promotion and protection of human rights, and underlined the need to enable the country to progress with its human rights agenda, saying it was for that reason that she had voted against the draft.


The representative of Mexico said she had voted in favour because it shared the international community’s concerns over human rights violations.  However, Mexico recognized the new President’s desire to work with the United Nations and wished the resolution contained more positive language.


The representative of Chile said that despite having voted in favour, his delegation recognized the encouraging signs in Iran, which should be consolidated by concrete actions.  He called on the Government to allow a visit by the Special Rapporteur.


The representative of Brazil said he had abstained because the text did not reflect the human rights situation in Iran, citing the release of political prisoners and the appointment of a special assistant for minorities and women.


The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said she had abstained due to the selectivity with which draft resolutions on the situation of human rights in certain countries were put forward, and the apparent politicization of the issue.


The representative of Japan said he had voted in favour because, while appreciating Iran’s cooperation and its promotion and protection of women rights, his delegation expected it to continue its engagement with human rights mechanisms in light of outstanding issues such as restrictions on freedom of assembly.


The representative of New Zealand said he had been encouraged by the election of the new President of Iran, pointing out that the human rights violations recounted in the report of the Special Rapporteur had occurred under the previous administration.  However, he called on the new Government to focus on improving the human rights situation, adding that the draft resolution could establish a benchmark against which future progress could be measured.  New Zealand looked forward to a time when the resolution would no longer be needed.


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For information media • not an official record