THIRD COMMITTEE CONCLUDES SESSION BY APPROVING DRAFT RESOLUTIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR, AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

30 November 2001
GA/SHC/3678

THIRD COMMITTEE CONCLUDES SESSION BY APPROVING DRAFT RESOLUTIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR, AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

30/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3678

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

54th Meeting (PM)

THIRD COMMITTEE CONCLUDES SESSION BY APPROVING DRAFT RESOLUTIONS ON HUMAN RIGHTS

IN MYANMAR, AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Decides to Resume Session in 2002 to Consider Racism

Issues; Also Approves Drafts on Terrorism, Women, Disabled Persons

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon completed the bulk of its work for 2001 by approving eight draft resolutions on the human rights situations in Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan; the advancement of women; terrorism and disabled persons.  Delegations also unanimously agreed to hold a resumed session in 2002 in order to take up matters related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination. 

The dates of the resumed session would be conditional on the issuance of the final report of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 8 September.

The representative of Senegal, whose country had hosted a preparatory meeting for the Durban Conference, expressed deep concern that fully two months after the Conference’s conclusion, the final report remained unfinished.  He stressed that such a serious precedent should be avoided in the future, particularly regarding the work of international conferences convened under the auspices of the United Nations.  He called on all negotiating parties to make their best efforts in achieving consensus on the paragraphs in question.

When the Committee turned to act on matters related to human rights questions, a draft text on human rights and terrorism prompted a spirited debate in which delegations recalled the horror of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States and the long shadow that tragedy had cast over their work throughout the session.

Though the draft resolution was approved, by a vote of 84 in favour to none against, with 64 abstentions (Annex III), a fundamental difference of opinion emerged on the language of the text.  Many delegations that supported the text wondered why a vote had been requested at all.  Lamenting that the resolution had not been approved unanimously, the representative of Turkey said that, after

11 September, the link between terrorism and human rights should have been clear.

Those events made immediate and comprehensive international action on the issue of terrorism more necessary than ever.

Of greatest concern to those that had abstained, however, was the contention that terrorist groups committed massive violations of human rights.  Terrorist acts were not violations of international human rights law.  To equate the two, the representative of Canada said, weakened the protection of human rights.  Terrorist acts were criminal acts, and should be prosecuted under national and international criminal law.  

The Committee also approved, without a vote, a text on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities by which the Assembly would decide to establish an

Ad Hoc Committee open to the participation of all Member States and observers, to elaborate such a convention. 

All the country-specific texts on human rights situation before the Committee were approved but elicited much debate.  Several delegations expressed the general concern that such resolutions were not the way to improve the situation of human rights in any country.  They added that such resolutions should examine human rights in their entirety.  Others felt that the promotion and protection of human rights involved respect for national sovereignty and non-interference with the internal affairs of countries. 

That view was echoed following the Committee’s approval of a draft text on the human rights situation in Iraq by a vote of 91 in favour to 3 against (Libya, Sudan and Comoros), with 55 abstentions (Annex II).  By that text, the Assembly would call upon the Government of Iraq to abide by its freely undertaken obligations under international human rights treaties and international humanitarian law to respect the rights of all individuals and to bring about an end to summary and arbitrary executions.

The representative of Algeria was among several speakers who had abstained from the vote, noting that the draft made little mention of the disastrous effect of years of sanctions on Iraq.  She added that the main victims of those sanctions had been women and children.  Most delegations called on the Iraqi Government to cooperate with concerned parties to solve the issue of missing persons.

Although the resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar was adopted by consensus, many delegations from the region, including India, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand all expressed concern that the text did not accurately reflect the progress made in that country during the past year, particularly regarding the process of national reconciliation and confidence-building measures.

The Committee approved, without a vote, a text on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, by which the Assembly would condemn various widespread violations committed largely by the Taliban.  The resolution called on all Afghan parties to respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms, without discrimination on any ground, including on the basis of gender, ethnicity or religion, in accordance with international law. 

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In addition, it approved a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by a recorded vote of 88 in favour, to

2 against (Rwanda and Uganda), with 66 abstentions (Annex I).  The resolution would have the Assembly express its concern at the situation of human rights there, particularly in the zones held by the armed rebels and under foreign occupation, and at the persistent violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law, including the atrocities against the civilian populations, usually committed with complete impunity.

On matters related to the advancement of women, the Committee approved without a vote a text on the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).  Finally, this afternoon, the Committee adopted its organization of work and draft biennial programme of work for 2002-2003, and took note of relevant reports that had been considered.

The day’s work ended with congratulatory remarks for the Chairman and Bureau by representatives of the regional groups, including:  Uganda, on behalf of the African States; Belgium, on behalf of the European Union; Malawi, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); Haiti, on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Community; Canada, on behalf of Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand (JUSCANZ); Iran, on behalf of the Group of 77; Syria, on behalf of the Asian Group; Benin, on behalf of the West African States; and Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group.

The Third Committee will reconvene in 2002 at a date to be announced in the Journal.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian Cultural) met this afternoon to complete the bulk of its work for the 2001 session by taking action on all remaining draft texts under its consideration.

Delegations will also consider a draft decision proposed by the Chairman on a resumed session of the Third Committee (document A/C.3/56/L.79) by which the Assembly would decide that the Committee shall hold meetings in 2002, during the resumed fifty-sixth session of the Assembly, in order to consider agenda item 117 -- elimination of racism and racial discrimination -- the dates for which will be determined in consultation with the Secretariat, as soon as possible following the issuance of the report of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

On matters related to human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, the Committee will take up four draft texts.

By a draft on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/56/L.55), the Assembly would strongly urge the Government of Myanmar to ensure full respect for all human Rights and fundamental freedoms, including economic and social rights; to fulfil its obligations to restore the independence of the judiciary and due process; to end the impunity of and bring to justice any perpetrators of human rights violations, including members of the military; and to investigate and prosecute alleged violations committed by Government agents in all circumstances.

By a draft on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/C.3/56/L.56/Rev.1), the Assembly would express its concern at the situation of human rights there, particularly in the zones held by the armed rebels and under foreign occupation, and at the persistent violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law, including the atrocities against the civilian populations, usually committed with complete impunity.  The Assembly would also emphasize that all the forces present in the territory of the Democratic Republic should be held accountable for the violations of human rights in the territories under their control.

Further by that text, the Assembly would express concern, in particular, at all the massacres and atrocities still being committed throughout the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and also in the zones held by armed rebels and under foreign occupation, particularly Bugobe, Nyatende, Kamisimbi, Lurhala, Nyangesi, Biambwe, Nbingi, Bunyatenge, Kaghumo, Banyuke, Kirma, Kalemie, Pweto, Rutshuru, Kimbumba, Kimia Kimia, Dungo Mulunga and Kasese Bolanga.  It would further express concern at the occurrences of cases of summary and arbitrary execution, disappearance, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, including of journalists, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and people who have cooperated with the United Nations mechanisms.

Under a text on the situation of human rights in Iraq (document A/C.3/56/L.57) the Assembly, recalling previous resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights and of the Security Council, would strongly condemn, among other things, the systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and international law by the Government of Iraq.  It would also condemn the suppression of freedom of thought, expression, information, association, assembly and movement through fear of arrest, imprisonment, execution, expulsion house demolition or other sanctions.

The Assembly would call upon the Government of Iraq to abide by its freely undertaken obligations under international human rights treaties and international humanitarian law to respect the rights of all individuals and to bring about an end to summary and arbitrary executions.  It would also call upon the Government to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, in particular by inviting the Special Rapporteur to visit the country and allowing the stationing of human rights monitors pursuant to resolutions of the Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights.  The Assembly would further urge cooperation with the Tripartite Commission and its Technical Subcommittee to establish the whereabouts and resolve the fate of the remaining several hundred missing persons, including prisoners of war, Kuwaiti nationals and third-country nationals and to pay compensation to the families of those who died or disappeared in the custody of Iraqi authorities.

Under a proposed Chairman's text on the Question of Human Rights in Afghanistan (document A/C.3/56/L.82), by which the Assembly would strongly condemn the cases of summary executions committed by the Taliban at Yakawlang; the widespread violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law in Afghanistan, mainly by the Taliban, including the right to life, liberty and security of person, freedom from torture and from other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, freedom of opinion, expression, religion, association and movement, and the recruitment and use of children in hostilities contrary to international standards; the civilian massacres involving reprisal killings and summary executions following, in recent years, the taking and retaking of particular areas by warring parties; the frequent Taliban practice of arbitrary arrest and detention and of summary trials, which have resulted in summary executions throughout the country.

Further to the text, the Assembly would strongly condemn the gross violations of the human rights of women and girls, including all forms of discrimination against them, notably in areas under the control of the Taliban where findings of further gross violations of the human rights of women and girls include abductions and kidnappings, as well as accounts of many instances of forced marriage and of trafficking.  It would call upon all Afghan parties to respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms, without discrimination on any ground, including of gender, ethnicity or religion, in accordance with international law.  It also calls upon them to refrain from summary and arbitrary executions and from acts of reprisal and to adhere strictly to their obligations under human rights instruments and international humanitarian law.  They should, according to the resolution, reaffirm publicly their commitment to fully respect humanitarian law and international human rights standards and to take all measures to protect the civilian population.

On matters related to the advancement of women, a resolution on the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)(document A/C.3/56/L.20/Rev.1 and programme budget implications document A/C.3/56/L.76), the Assembly would urge the Secretary-General to appoint a Director of the Institute as soon as possible in order to provide it with the required leadership, in particular throughout the period of restructuring; to continue to encourage Member States to support the Institute by making voluntary contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund for the Institute.

On matters related to human rights questions including alternative approaches for the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Committee had before it two draft resolutions.

Under a draft on human rights and terrorism (document A/C.3/56/L.59), the Assembly, expressing its solidarity with the victims of terrorism as well as its alarm that acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations aimed at the destruction of human rights have continued despite national and international efforts, would urge the international community to enhance cooperation at the regional and international levels in the efforts against terrorism, including those relating to human rights, with the aim of the eradication of terrorism.

Further by the text, the Assembly would call upon States to take all necessary and appropriate measures, in conformity with relevant provisions of national and international law before granting refugee status, to ensure that an asylum-seeker has not planned, facilitated or participated in the commission of terrorist acts.  The Assembly would also condemn the incitement of ethnic hatred, violence and terrorism.

Under a text on the Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities (document A/C.3/56/L.67/Rev.1) the Assembly would call upon States and the regional commissions, in cooperation with relevant United Nations bodies to hold regional meetings or seminars to contribute to the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on elaborating the convention by making recommendations regarding the content and practical measures that should be considered in the international convention.

The Committee would consider its organization of work for the current session and draft biennial programme of work of the Committee for 2002-2003 (document A/C.3/56/L.75).  That text contained the guidelines concerning time limits for statements in the Committee as well as its complete 2001 programme of work.  It also looks forward to 2002 and 2003 by listing the items that the Committee would consider and the required documentation that would facilitate the work of delegations.

Action on Drafts

The Committee took action on several draft resolutions on matters related to the advancement of women, human rights questions, including alternative approaches for the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.

The Committee began its work this afternoon by approving a text on the holding of a resumed session (document A/C.3/56/L.79) in 2002, during the resumed fifty-sixth session of the Assembly, to consider matters related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination.

The Committee Chairman, FUAD MUBARAK AL-HINAI (Oman) told delegations that the dates for the session would be determined in consultation with the Secretariat, as soon as possible following the issuance of the report of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.  He added that if the Durban report could be agreed upon before the reports of the Committee were considered in Plenary, the Bureau would explore the possibility by which the Assembly could take note of it as soon as possible to demonstrate the importance of the item and the urgency of the issues contained therein.

On matters related to crime prevention and criminal justice, the Chairman reiterated his statement made earlier in the week that the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice had held a resumed session and drafted two more resolutions for action by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly.  However, those texts had been issued after the Committee had concluded its consideration and action on that item.  Since those drafts must first be approved by ECOSOC, which was not expected to meet for some time, the Assembly would keep the item open pending action by the Council. 

He added that the Bureau was aware that for the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, approval by the Assembly was a matter of urgency, since the Commission would need to hold another meeting soon focussing on the action plan for the implementation of the Vienna Declaration, in particular, the section dealing with terrorism.  As time was of the essence, action, could be taken directly in Plenary as had been done in previous years.  No further action was required of the Third Committee.

The Committee Secretary next read a note from the Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division on programme budget implications of the draft. 

The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said his delegation supported the proposal to postpone the items related to racism and the elimination of racial discrimination, but would prefer to hold a resumed session before the next session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.  The delegation regretted the fact that the outcome of the Durban Conference had not been received in time for the Committee to take a decision.

The representative of Senegal joined the statement made by the Group of 77, adding that he regretted that the report on the Durban Conference had not been completed in time for the Committee’s consideration.  That was a very serious precedent that should be avoided in the future, particularly regarding the work of international conferences convened under the auspices of the United Nations.  He called on all negotiating parties to make their best efforts in achieving consensus on the paragraphs in question.

On matters related to human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, the Committee took action on four resolutions.

The first text was a draft on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/56/L.55).

Explaining his delegation’s position, the representative of Myanmar said that since the adoption of Assembly resolution 55/112, his country had been able to implement a number of positive steps.  Those significant measures had been acknowledged by many international observers, including Razali Ismail, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, who had characterized Myanmar’s cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as ‘exemplary’.  Further, the Secretary-General’s latest report acknowledged that important positive developments had taken place since January 2001.  Unfortunately, he continued, such assessments had been reflected only nominally and half-heartedly in the present resolution.

Myanmar would encourage the international community to appreciate the fact that encouragement and cooperation had brought about the positive changes in the country’s political climate and social situation, despite the globally unfavourable economic and trading environments, he said.  To do otherwise would undoubtedly stifle Myanmar’s efforts to establish a peaceful, prosperous and democratic State.  Myanmar would have hoped to see a very different draft from the one presented -- one that reflected present developments in the country in a positive and unbiased manner.  Regrettably, the draft dwelled too much on the past, maintaining the tone of previous resolutions by retaining negative statements attributable to the previous Rapporteur, who had never visited the country.

Moreover, he continued, the draft was inaccurate, and it was disappointing that some information provided by his delegation and friendly neighbouring countries in the region had not been given due attention.  While expressing deep appreciation to those delegations that had participated actively and constructively in the consultation process, he added, that the handful of co-sponsors that continued to pressure his country would not be absolved of their responsibility if Myanmar’s road to democracy became more difficult.  He said with the help, understanding and cooperation of the international community, Myanmar’s transition to democracy could be smoother.

The delegate from Viet Nam, making a general statement, said it was the principle position of Viet Nam that a resolution was not the way to improve the situation of human rights in any country.  It strongly believed that the promotion and protection of human rights involved respect of national sovereignty and non-interference with the internal affairs of a country.  Improvements in the situation of human rights could be brought about with dialogue.  Viet Nam appreciated the efforts made by Myanmar in improving its human rights situation.  Any resolution should reflect improvements, and not simply criticize a country.

The delegate of China, making a general statement, said Myanmar had several rounds of consultations with the sponsors.  But the draft did not reflect the true situation in Myanmar.  In the last year, the Government of Myanmar had cooperated with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, as well as the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights.

The resolution was then approved without a vote.

Explaining his delegation's position after adoption, the representative of India said the resolution did not fully reflect the current realities.  India was pleased to see the release of political detainees, as well as the confidence-building measures already in place.

Explaining her delegation's position after adoption, the representative of Japan said there had been some important positive developments in Myanmar in the last year.  The resolution should not isolate Myanmar from the international community, but encourage Myanmar to even further improve its situation relating to human rights.  Sponsors were encouraged to include recent positive efforts in the resolution.

Explaining his delegation's position after adoption, the representative of Indonesia said attention should be drawn to the positive development that had occurred in Myanmar in the last year.  This was adequately reflected in the report of the Secretary-General on this item.  In Myanmar, the national reconciliation process was now at a crossroads, and the international community had to play a role to ensure positive development occurred.  Indonesia had always maintained that it was important to have a constructive dialogue when addressing human rights.  It was hoped the international community would recognize and support the confidence-building measures being undertaken in Myanmar.

Explaining his delegation's position after adoption, the representative of Malaysia said Malaysia did not want to block consensus.  However, it felt that resolutions only isolated the countries that were targeted in the resolution.  The Government of Myanmar should be commended for its efforts in the national reconciliation process.  Malaysia welcomed the positive developments in the past year, which had resulted in improvement in the political climate.  Many delegations were involved in consultations with the draft resolution, however it was regrettable that many of the amendments that would have made it a balanced text were not accepted.

Explaining his delegation's position after adoption, the representative of Thailand said Thailand reiterated its support for the ongoing process of national reconciliation.  Efforts of the Special Envoy, the Special Rapporteur and the Secretary-General should be applauded, as should the Government of Myanmar for its cooperative attitude.

Another draft was on the situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/C.3/56/L.56/Rev.1).

The representative of Rwanda, making a general statement, said Rwanda was deeply attached to the strict respect of human rights, and vigorously condemned any violations of such rights.  Rwanda disapproved of this report, finding it subjective.  It contained gratuitous allegations against Rwanda.  That was why Rwanda could not support the draft.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo asked who had requested the vote.

The CHAIRMAN said the vote had been requested by Rwanda.

Explaining his delegation's position before the vote, the delegate of Uganda said in most cases Uganda was in agreement with the European Union, especially on matters concerning human rights.  That included the current draft resolution.  However, Uganda wanted to state that it did not agree with operative

paragraph 1 (b).  That paragraph, among other things, welcomed reports of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  His work had not been well researched.  The Committee was not afforded the opportunity to engage in a discussion with the Special Rapporteur.  The delegation also did not agree with operative paragraph 2 (d), which was not factually correct.  Uganda had stated to the Committee what it believed to be the correct facts on this matter.  Therefore, Uganda regretted that the draft resolution did not address the issue it was charged with -- human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with regard to its Government's activities.  Uganda would vote against the resolution.

Explaining his delegation's position before the vote, the delegate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the resolution should have been titled “the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following its invasions by Uganda”.  Violations of human rights were current following this reign of terror.  It had been denounced by many human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and by many human rights bodies of the United Nations.   Ugandan soldiers had spread the HIV/AIDS virus, and had buried women alive, among many other horrible activities.  Uganda had moved its conflict into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing thousands of victims and internally displaced persons.  The polarization of the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic should be reflected in the resolution.  The delegation proposed several amendments so that was in the text.  The resolution had led to the displeasure of certain terrorist countries, especially Rwanda and Uganda.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo asked the Committee not to vote with those two countries.

By a recorded vote of 88 in favour to 2 against (Rwanda and Uganda), with

66 abstaining, the resolutions was adopted. (See Annex I for voting details.)

Explaining his delegation's position after the vote, the delegate of Bangladesh said that State-specific resolutions were not the best way to promote and protect human rights.

The Committee adjourned its meeting at 4:30 p.m., and reconvened at 6 p.m. to complete its work.

The next draft resolution was on a text on the situation of human rights in Iraq (document A/C.3/56/L.57).

Explaining his delegation's position before the vote, the delegate of Iraq said the European Union continued, with the support of the United States, to present the draft resolution.  The draft was like previous ones.  The least that could be said about it was that it was a copy of the ones presented in the last 10 years.  It was unbalanced, extremely selective, and not objective.  It was a reflection of similar resolutions against countries that were contrary to the United States.  It was obviously politicized.  It was regrettable that the European Union had fallen prey to those political motivations.  The developing countries should know that Iraqi society was dynamic.  It had been reconstructed from the damage inflicted by the United States and the European Union.

Iraq continued to be the victim of air bombings from the United States and Britain every day.  It also suffered from a blockade, which had led to a lethal humanitarian situation -- it had led to the deaths of more than one million Iraqi citizens.  The international community should put an end to that embargo and the sanctions.  The oil-for-foor programme did not meet the requirements of the Iraqi people.  It was widely known that the contracts for $4.5 billion had been suspended.  The money was supposed to be for humanitarian programmes in Iraq.  The co-sponsors should be investigating the depleted uranium that they were sending to Iraq.

He said the European Union should have asked Great Britain to stop preventing humanitarian programmes.  It should have allowed the release of all humanitarian medicines and food.  The European Union should condemn those practices, which were targeting a whole nation.  It was affecting people who were not able to get their basic human needs.  Iraq could not purchase what it required to rebuild its facilities, including electricity and water services.  Iraq abided by all United Nations Security Council resolutions.  It had fulfilled all its obligations.  Iraq was now expecting the Security Council to fulfil its obligations in the same resolutions.  New obligations should not be added.

Since 1991, Iraq had welcomed hundreds of humanitarian agencies, he said.  Lifting the embargo was the only way to promote human rights in Iraq.  Iraq's wealth was sufficient enough to achieve a good living level for all of its citizens.  It was not a poor country in need of assistance.  Previously, Iraq had been a provider of assistance -- that was the situation before 1991.  Deployment of human rights observers in Iraq was rejected by the Government.  All third world countries rejected such deployments.  That undermined the sovereignty of States, and it interfered with a State's internal affairs.  It had nothing to do with fears that some behaviour would be brought into the open.  Iraq had nothing to fear.

He said there was concern about the treatment of certain minorities in Iraq.  Kurds and other minorities were assured of their human rights in Iraq.  Regarding missing Kuwaiti citizens, Iraq had a great deal of sympathy for all families of missing persons, be they Kuwaiti, Iraqi or any other nationality.  Iraq had no Kuwaiti prisoners.  Iraq had released all prisoners of war -- a total of 6,000.  Resolution 678 considered the release of war prisoners a prerequisite for the cessation of hostilities.  Iraq called on Kuwait not to politicize the subject of missing citizens.  It was hoped this would be sorted out through bilateral dialogue.  If they did not wish to do so, Iraq could turn to the Arab League for recourse.  That issue should be worked out.  Iraq presented 1,370 files with regard to missing Iraqis.  Iraq was still awaiting a response, and hoped the Secretary-General would intervene.

The resolution before the Committee could be in preparation for a new aggression to be committed against Iraq, he said.  The Group of 77, the Islamic States, and the Non-Aligned Movement were encouraged to vote against it.

The representative of Libya said his delegation had previously expressed its opinion on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iraq.  He said that Libya was keen on promoting human rights the world over, but such promotion should not be exploited or misused by certain States at the expense of others.  The resolution before the Committee was politicized and unbalanced.  He noted that paragraphs pertaining to the deployment of human rights observers constituted a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.  No other States would accept such interference.  The text barely mentioned the effect of sanctions on Iraq.  He called on Iraq to cooperate with concerned parties on the subject of missing persons.  His country would vote against the resolution.

The representative of Iraq requested a recorded vote on the draft resolution.

The representative of Tunisia said his delegation believed that the draft was selective and presented a unilateral perspective of human rights.  Proceeding from its firm conviction that human rights were indivisible and should be comprehensively considered, Tunisia believed the situation in Iraq should be considered from the viewpoint of the negative impacts of the sanctions on the country.  He called on the international community to address that issue.  He hoped that further initiatives of the Security Council would focus on the humanitarian effects of sanctions.

The representative of Egypt said it was important not to politicize the issue of human rights.  The sovereignty of Iraq should be respected.  He added that the issue of missing persons should be resolved.  All civilians, particularly women and children should be protected from the disastrous and debilitating effects of the sanctions on Iraq.  His delegation would abstain from the vote.

The draft was approved by a vote of 91 in favour to 3 against (Libya, Sudan and Comoros), with 55 abstentions (see Annex II).

Following the vote, the representative of Algeria said the unjust embargo on Iraq should be lifted because the real victims of that regime were women and children.  Algeria deemed that the cause of human rights could not be served without constructive and fair dialogue.  That country had abstained from the vote.

The representative of Syria said that her delegation had abstained from the vote because the draft referred to the division of Iraq among various minorities.  Syria did not accept any measures that undermined the territorial integrity of Iraq.  The resolution called for the deployment of human rights observers in Iraq, which Syria believed was interference in the internal affairs of Iraq.  It was sad that the text had only briefly mentioned the disastrous effect of the sanctions on Iraq.  At the same time, she called on the Iraqi Government to cooperate with concerned parties to solve the issue of missing persons.

The representative of the Bahamas said that her delegation was committed to the promotion of human rights and had voted in favour of the resolution because it believed that the recommendations within the text served to genuinely improve the human rights situation in that country.  The Bahamas made its decision without prejudice to its belief that matters pertaining to the death penalty should be left to States to decide.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation had abstained from the vote because it was unbalanced.  The Russian Federation noted that years of sanctions had affected all aspects of life in Iraq, including employment and health situations.  Those and other issues had not been properly reflected in the resolution.

The representative of Cuba said his delegation had abstained from the vote because the text had presented a selective view of the situation.  He added that the draft did not aim to protect and ensure the sovereignty of Iraq, nor did it reflect the effects of the sanctions on the country.  For those and other reasons, his delegation had abstained from the vote.

The next text was a proposed Chairman's text on the Question of Human Rights in Afghanistan (document A/C.3/56/L.82).  The resolution was adopted without a vote.

On matters related to the advancement of women, the Committee had before it a text on the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)(document A/C.3/56/L.20/Rev.1 and programme budget implications contained in A/C.3/56/L.76).  The resolution was adopted, as orally amended, without a vote.

On matters related to human rights questions, including alternative approaches for the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Committee adopted two drafts.

Before the Committee was a draft on human rights and terrorism (document A/C.3/56/L.59).

The representative of Egypt asked who requested a vote.

The CHAIRMAN said the European Union, Canada, Australia, San Marino and Liechtenstein.

The delegate of Egypt, making a general statement, said what happened on

11 September should give the international community a new way to handle terrorism.  The human rights of the victims of terrorism needed to be looked at.

The delegate of Algeria, making a general statement, said she was surprised there was a request for a vote.  On 11 September, the world was reminded very brutally of the gravity of the terrorist threat.  Solidarity was needed to face off against terrorism and overcome it.  The international community had to adapt to the current challenges of globalization.  Borders were disappearing rapidly with advances in technology, and terrorists were using the technologies of globalization.  Children and women were killed by the hundreds.  Schools were destroyed, leaving children nowhere to go.  People were afraid to fly because hijackers had turned airplanes into weapons.  Offices had been evacuated, and economies were affected.  It was the primary responsibility of governments to ensure human rights.

The delegate of the Russian Federation, making a general statement, said it regretted it was not possible to reach a consensus on this resolution.  Consultations were difficult and intense.  He was convinced that terrorism was a total negation of human rights.  It was not necessary to move paragraphs around.  All one had to do was see ground zero.

The delegate of Turkey, making a general statement, said it was regrettable this resolution would have to be adopted by vote.  It was hoped after 11 September that there would be a clear understanding of the link between terrorism and human rights.  However, it was not possible to reach a consensus.  It was hoped consensus could be reached in the future.

The delegate of India, making a general statement, said unfortunately there was still a negation in the international community about terrorism affecting human rights.  He said no semantics could qualfy as an explanation.

The delegate of Peru, making a general statement, said all violations of human rights should be condemned.  Human rights were indivisible, and they went beyond the frontiers of States.  The draft resolution was aimed against terrorist groups that violated human rights.

The delegate of Mauritania, making a general statement, said it was regrettable consensus could not be reached.

Explaining her delegation's position before the vote, the representative of the United States said it was hoped that consensus could have been achieved.  The delegate from Algeria should be commended.  The attacks of 11 September were of the most serious and heinous nature.  The problem with the text was equating terrorists with members of States.  The United States would continue to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Explaining her delegation's position before the vote, the delegate of Chile said certain reservations would force Chile to abstain.  There had to be a distinction between terrorism and human rights. Terrorist actions had to be condemned by the international community, whether or not they had been acting individually or under the orders of States.  Chile condemned all terrorist actions which were aimed against human life and human dignity. 

Explaining his delegation's position before the vote, the delegate of Canada said it condemned terrorism.  It was an abominable crime.  Canada would fight it with all the resources at its disposal.  Canada had joined in the unanimous adoption of the General Assembly resolution which condemned the actions of

11 September; had implemented 10 international terrorism conventions; and soon would be implementing the other two. 

Canada had worked hard to achieve consensus, but it was unable to support the text before the Committee, he said.  Of greatest concern was the contention that terrorist groups committed massive violations of human rights.  Terrorist acts were not violations of international human rights law.  To equate the two weakened the protection of human rights.  Terrorist acts were criminal acts, and should be prosecuted under national and international criminal law. 

Canada was also troubled about the reference that suggested that the right to life took precedence over other rights, he said.  The Vienna Convention said States had an obligation to protect all human rights equally.  That reference could open the door to States assigning some rights more importance than others.  Canada was disappointed that this year consensus could not be reached on a resolution consistent with international human rights law.  Canada would abstain.

The delegate of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explaining the European Union's position before the vote, said the European Union unequivocally condemned all terrorist acts.  They would always be criminal acts.  The European Union believed it would be preferable to deal with terrorism from a human rights point of view if, and only if, there was a clear linkage between terrorism and human rights.  The European Union regretted that its requests had not been taken into account.  It objected to the current text.  The European Union could not agree to the statement that terrorist acts directly constituted a violation of human rights.  Terrorist acts were criminal acts.  However, they could constitute acts of aggression that posed a threat to international peace and security.  The European Union was not in a position to support the text and it would abstain during the vote.

Explaining his delegation's position before the vote, the delegate of Argentina said the delegation would abstain because the text could be read to give terrorists a status they did not enjoy.  Terrorists should be dealt with in national courts.  Argentina condemned all terrorist attacks.  Those were extremely serious acts, and should be combated robustly.  Combating terrorism meant all States had to commit to combating terrorism, denying asylum to terrorists, prosecuting or extraditing terrorists, and enforcing national laws.

By a recorded vote of 84 in favour, to none against, with 64 abstentions, the resolution was adopted (see Annex III).

Explaining her delegation's position after the vote, the representative of Syria said it condemned all acts of terrorism as criminal acts.  Syria abstained during the vote for several reasons.  First, the draft did not unfortunately mention resolution 4651 of the General Assembly, which had an international definition of terrorism.  Syria reaffirmed the need to draw a distinction between terrorism and the legitimate right of peoples to national independence.

Explaining his delegation's position after the vote, the representative of Liechtenstein said his country was fully committed to fighting against terrorism.  However, his delegation had abstained on the draft resolution.  The draft represented a missed opportunity, particularly this year.  The draft resolution that had just been adopted was largely identical to the text that had been adopted in years past.  The fight against terrorism should fully safeguard human rights, and could not be invoked in violating those rights.

Explaining his delegation's position after the vote, the representative of Japan said his Government had worked towards consensus.  It was sad it could not be obtained.  Since the original document had been tabled, instead of a compromise text, Japan had no choice but to abstain.  Although consensus was not reached, it was important for the international community to unite in its fight against terrorism.

The representative of Benin, making a general statement, said it appeared the victims of the attacks of 11 September had been forgotten in the debate.  The rights of their parents and families had been forgotten as well.  There had been talk about justice, but justice had not been done.  In this case, terrorists had seriously violated human rights.

The Committee next took up a text on the Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities (document A/C.3/56/L.67/Rev.1), which was orally amended by the representative of Mexico.

Before delegations took action on the draft, the Committee Secretary read a note from the Programme Planning and Budget Division on budget implications in the text.

The Committee approved the revised text without a vote.

After the draft was approved, the representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the lengthy consultations on the text had not always been as transparent as the delegation would have wanted, particularly on an issue that was of such general importance.  Still, the development of such and instrument would be quite an undertaking, and no decisions should be made without broad consultations.  It was important that the Ad Hoc Committee to be established by the resolution be able to take into account all proposals, including those put forward by non-governmental organizations.  It was necessary to await the results

of studies on the matter currently under way within the functional commissions of the United Nations system before finalizing preparations for a new convention.

The representative of the United States regretted that her delegation could not co-sponsor the resolution but had joined consensus on it.  The United States was deeply committed to the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and supported all international efforts in that regard.  She said, however, that the establishment of a mechanism without the needed research seemed premature.  There was a process under way now within the United Nations system to consider the situation of persons with disabilities and it would have been more appropriate to review the conclusions of those studies before taking a decision.

The representative of Canada said that her delegation supported international efforts to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, but before deciding on the manner in which a relevant mechanism could be elaborated, the forthcoming reports of the functioning commissions currently studying the issue, particularly the Commission on Human Rights, should be considered.

The representative of Australia said his delegation placed a high priority on ensuring the protection of human rights of persons with disabilities.  Australia believed that any consideration of additions to existing international law could not be made without understanding the scope and vision of proposed new mechanisms, as well as their relationship to the existing law.  It would be important in that regard that the changes announced would allow the input of functioning commissions currently studying the issue.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said his delegation would have voted against the resolution on the human rights situation in the Sudan.

The Committee also recommended to the General Assembly that it take note of several documents, including the reports of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (document A/56/177) and on the status of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/56/205).  The Committee also recommended that the Assembly take note of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/56/36).  (For background on those three documents see Press Release GA/SHC/3655 of 6 November.)

It also recommended that the Assembly take note of the following Notes by the Secretary-General forwarded to the Assembly on matters related to:  human rights and persons with disabilities (document A/56/263) and the right to development (document A/56/256).  (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3656 of 7 November.)

The Committee also recommended that note be taken of the interim report by the Special Rapporteur on violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (document A/56/440).  (For background, see Press Release GA/56/3657 of 8 November.)  It also recommended taking note of the interim report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi (A/56/479.  (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3659).

The Committee also recommended the General Assembly take note of three other reports.

The first one was on the human rights situation in Sierra Leone (A/56/281).  The report examines various aspects of the conflict in the country, including those concerning refugees and internally displaced persons; children and armed conflict; violence against women; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and persons detained under the state of emergency.  It concluded that 2001 witnessed a significant momentum in the implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone.  The ceasefire had largely been observed, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes have been relaunched.

The next report concerned the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Torture (document A/56/181).  It provided two annexes -– one on the list of organizations financed by the Fund in 2001 and another which detailed the Joint Declaration for the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June 2001.

A third report was on the situation of human rights in East Timor (document A/56/337), which detailed the situation during that country’s independence.  The report stated that it was essential to develop strong mechanisms for the protection of human rights, including rights based on, among other things, provisions of the Constitution, legislation and government structures and procedures.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, called on the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the new Government to, among other things, introduce legislation protecting minorities and to amend any legislation that allowed for illegal discriminatory behaviour.

The Committee next took up the report of its organization of work and draft biennial programme of work for 2002-2003 (document A/C.3/56/L.75), which was introduced and updated by Lixian Xiong, Chief of the Documentation, Programming and Monitoring Unit, Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services.  Mr. Xiong read several technical modifications to the text.

The Committee approved that report.

The Committee also took note of the report the  Economic and Social Council (document A/56/3).

The CHAIRMAN, making concluding remarks, thanked the Vice-Chairmen, the Rapporteur and the Secretary, Kate Starr-Newell, and her assistants.  He also thanked the interpreters -- who handled a difficult task with great competence

-– as well as Department of Public Information personnel, conference officers and precis-writers.  He also further expressed appreciation to the delegation of Cuba for hosting the Third Committee party.  He also thanked all the delegations for their hard work -- they were a credit to their countries -- and wished happy holidays to all.

Representatives of various regional groups thanked the Chairman for his work.  Those included Uganda, on behalf of the African States; Belgium, on behalf of the European Union; Malawi, on behalf the Southern African Development Community (SADC); Haiti, on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Community; Canada, on behalf of Japan, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (JUSCANZ); Iran, on behalf of the Group of 77; Syria, on behalf of the Asian Group;  Benin, on behalf of the West African States; and Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group.

ANNEX I

Vote on Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/C.3/56/L.56/Rev.1) was adopted by a recorded vote of 88 in favour to 2 against (Rwanda, Uganda) with 66 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia.

Against:  Rwanda, Uganda.

Abstaining:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Absent:  Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Chad, Comoros, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Grenada, Kiribati, Nauru, Nepal, Oman, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Yemen.

(END OF ANNEX I)

ANNEX II

Vote on Human Rights in Iraq

The draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Iraq (document A/C.3/56/L.57) was approved by a recorded vote of 91 in favour to 3 against (Libya, Sudan, Comoros), with 55 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Comoros, Libya, Sudan.

Abstaining:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.

Absent:  Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Honduras, Iran, Kiribati, Morocco, Nauru, Nepal, Oman, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Yemen.

(END OF ANNEX II)

ANNEX III

Vote on Human Rights and Terrorism

The draft resolution on human rights and terrorism (document A/C.3/56/L.59) was approved by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to none against, with 64 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Against:  None.

Abstaining:  Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Syria, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Yugoslavia.

Absent:  Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Honduras, Kiribati, Nauru, Nepal, Palau, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Zambia.

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For information media. Not an official record.