General Assembly criticizes human rights abuses in DPR Korea, Belarus, Iran

20 December 2006 – Acting on reports of torture in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), harassment of journalists and failure to hold free elections in Belarus, and intimidation of human rights workers and political opponents in Iran, the General Assembly has called on all three States to immediately end such abuses.

The Assembly adopted country-specific human rights resolutions on each on Tuesday, acting on recommendations made by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) at a meeting which also saw the adoption of 38 other resolutions and 5 decisions on a wide range of subjects, from Israel’s actions in Lebanon to religious intolerance.

Referring to the DPRK, the Assembly expressed its “very serious concern at continuing reports of systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights… including torture; the situation of refugees expelled or returned and sanctions imposed on citizens repatriated from abroad,” along with other reported abuses.

Turning to Belarus, the Assembly urged the Government to “bring the electoral process and legislative framework into line with international standards and cease politically motivated prosecution, harassment and intimidation.”

Echoing similar concerns over Iran, the Assembly called on the authorities to “ensure full respect for the rights to freedom of assembly, opinion and expression, and for the right to due process of law, to eliminate the use of torture and other cruel forms of punishment,” as well as abolish public executions and eliminate violence against women and girls.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution on the human rights consequences of this year’s Israeli operations against Hizbollah in Lebanon, deploring the death of more than 1,100 civilians, strongly condemning the use by Israel of cluster munitions and deploring the environmental degradation caused by air strikes against power plants.

Among the other resolutions and texts adopted, the Assembly deplored the use of print, audio-visual and electronic media to “incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination against Islam or any other religion” and urged Member States to take “resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of such ideas and materials.”

Concluding its action on all Third Committee reports on Wednesday, the Assembly adopted an International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and six other resolutions, along with three other decisions as recommended by the Committee.

The Convention, which had been co-sponsored by more than 100 Member States and adopted by the newly-established Human Rights Council in June, will recognize the right of persons not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and commit States party to it to criminalize enforced disappearance, bring those responsible to justice as well as take preventive measures.

General Assembly President Sheika Haya Al Khalifa said the practice of enforced disappearances is still widespread throughout the world, noting that since 1980 there have been more that 51,000 enforced disappearances in more than 90 countries.

In remarks before action on the resolution, she said adopting the Convention “can help prevent enforced disappearances and bring perpetrators to justice [and] provide justice for victims and their families who have suffered.” Urging Member States to adopt the convention by consensus, she appealed to Member States “at their earliest convenience” to take all necessary steps to ensure the full implementation of the Convention.

By another measure, the Assembly deferred action on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples until sometime before the end of the current session, because of concerns by some delegations about its potential effects on national sovereignty and land rights. Several other Member States – mainly from Latin America – noted that after 24 years of drafting and revisions it was time to make the Declaration a reality.

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