Top UN rights body adopts resolutions on DPR of Korea, Turkmenistan and Myanmar

17 April 2003 –

In a series of keenly debated decisions, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions expressing concern at rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Turkmenistan and Myanmar, but rejected bids to censure serious human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and the Sudan.

Heading into the final week of its annual session, the UN's top human rights body yesterday rejected a European Union-backed motion condemning persistent restrictions on civil liberties and continuing human rights violations in the Sudan. Defeating the resolution by a vote of 26 against to 24 in favour, with three abstentions, the Commission effectively closed out the mandate of its Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Sudan, which would have been extended by one year had the text been approved.

Following the vote, some of the Commission's member States said the draft resolution did not sufficiently credit the Sudanese Government for well-intentioned efforts and progress achieved in the field of human rights. A representative of Sudan said seven agreements recently had been concluded between the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), which had settled almost 90 per cent of the issues between them. It appeared the sponsors of the text insisted on "completely neglecting" that tremendous effort and the significant progress achieved towards peace and development in the county.

In other action, the Commission expressed deep concern at the "precarious" human rights situation in the DPRK, characterized by "widespread" abuses, such as torture and public executions, as well as "all-pervasive and severe" restrictions on freedom of thought and expression. Although the Commission approved the resolution by a vote of 28 in favour to 10 against, with 14 abstentions, several members called the text "selective," with "exaggerated" language counterproductive to improving the overall situation in DPRK.

The Commission also condemned Turkmenistan's rights record, passing a resolution accusing it of torture and other abuses following an attempt on the president's life last year. Voting 23 to 14 - with 16 abstentions - the Commission approved an EU-backed text that accused the Central Asian state of arbitrary detentions and arrests, harassment and forced displacement, as well as persistent "repression of all political opposition activities." After the vote, several members said Turkmenistan had fallen victim to the Commission's practice of targeting certain developing countries for violations while offering no positive strategies on the way forward.

The resolution on Myanmar was approved without a vote, with the Commission welcoming the freedom of movement within the country enjoyed by the leader of the National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and citing several other instances of progress. It did, however, call on the Government to fulfil its obligations to restore the judicial independence and due process of law, and to take further steps to reform the system of administration of justice. A representative of Myanmar called the text biased and "fundamentally flawed," stressing that efforts by the country's delegation to make the draft more constructive and less accusatory had not been accepted.

By a roll-call vote on a motion proposed by South Africa on behalf of the African Group, the Commission decided, by a ballot of 28 in favour to 24 against, with 1 abstention, not to take action on a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Zimbabwe. Under the text, it would have expressed deep concern at continuing violations of human rights by the Government of Zimbabwe and would have decided to request the Special Rapporteurs on torture, and on summary or arbitrary executions, among others, to consider carrying out missions to examine alleged human rights violations.

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