THIRD COMMITTEE TAKES NO ACTION ON TEXT CONCERNING HUMAN RIGHTS IN UZBEKISTAN

20 November 2006
GA/SHC/3875

THIRD COMMITTEE TAKES NO ACTION ON TEXT CONCERNING HUMAN RIGHTS IN UZBEKISTAN

20 November 2006
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3875
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Third Committee

49th Meeting (AM)


THIRD COMMITTEE TAKES NO ACTION ON TEXT CONCERNING HUMAN RIGHTS IN UZBEKISTAN


Approves Draft Resolutions on Refugees,

Follow-Up to Women’s Conference, Use of Mercenaries


Uzbekistan successfully sought a motion of no action today that effectively blocked a draft resolution before the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Culture) that would have seen the General Assembly express grave concern at serious and continuing human rights violations in that country.


The Committee also adopted drafts on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action, and the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the right to self-determination.  The draft on mercenaries was approved by a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 49 against, with 5 abstentions (Annex I).


Speaking when the draft on Uzbekistan came up for action, the representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that a recent summit of Non-Aligned Movement leaders had agreed that the exploitation of human rights for political purposes, including those of a country-specific nature, should be prohibited.  The representative of the United States spoke next, but she was interrupted by the Chair to enable her colleague from Uzbekistan to take the floor.


Uzbekistan’s representative said that no action should be taken on the resolution -- entitled “Situation of Human Rights in Uzbekistan” -- in light of the Assembly’s rules of procedure, the agreement of the Non-Aligned Movement heads of State and Government, and similar decisions about country-specific resolutions by member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the African Union (AU).  The representatives of Azerbaijan and China then spoke in favour of the motion; those of Finland and Canada spoke against, with the latter saying that it would marginalize the Assembly and see the United Nations fail victims of human rights abuses.


The no action motion was then adopted by a vote of 74 in favour to 69 against, with 24 abstentions (Annex II).  There was applause among some delegations as the results appeared on the electronic voting board.


The representatives of Sweden, Costa Rica, Singapore and Argentina also spoke today.


The representative of the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Committee was expected to reconvene on Tuesday, 21 November to take action on more draft resolutions.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to take action on four draft resolutions.


The Committee had before it a draft resolution on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/61/L.52), by which the Assembly would strongly condemn attacks on refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, and call upon all concerned States and parties involved in an armed conflict to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.  The Assembly would also deplore the unlawful expulsion of refugees and asylum-seekers, and affirm the importance of mainstreaming the protection needs of women and children.


Further to the draft, the Assembly would strongly reaffirm the fundamental importance, and the purely humanitarian and non-political character, of the High Commissioner, as well as emphasize the need to redouble international efforts and cooperation to resolve the plight of millions of refugees in protracted situations.  It would also emphasize the obligation of all States to accept and facilitate the return of their nationals, encourage the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to improve its management systems and ensure effective and transparent use of its resources, and urge Governments and others to respond promptly to the High Commissioner’s appeals for requirements under its programmes.


A draft resolution on the Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/61/L.60) would have the Assembly express serious concern that the urgent goal of 50/50 gender balance in the United Nations system, especially at senior and policymaking levels, remained unmet.  It would call upon Governments, the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, and all sectors of civil society, to fully commit themselves and to intensify their implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the outcome of the twenty-third special session.


The draft would further have the Assembly call upon States parties to comply fully with their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Optional Protocol thereto while urging States parties to consider limiting the extent of any reservations that they lodged to the Convention.  It would urge all Member States that had not yet ratified, or acceded to, the Convention, to consider doing so and call upon those Member States that had not yet signed, ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol to do so.


The Committee was also expected to consider a draft on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/61/L.50), which would have the Assembly express extreme alarm and concern about recent mercenary activities in Africa and the threat they posed to the integrity of, and respect for, the constitutional order of the countries in which they had been operating.  It would urge all States to exercise the utmost vigilance against the menace posed by the activities of mercenaries, and to take legislative measures to ensure that their territories and other territories under their control, as well as their nationals, were not used for the recruitment, assembly, financing, training and transit of mercenaries.


Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan (document A/C.3/61/L.39), which would have the Assembly express grave concern at serious and continuing human rights violations in that country, including reports of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by Government troops to quell demonstrations in Andijan in May 2005, and the subsequent closure of at least 200 non-governmental organizations.  It would have the Assembly strongly call upon the Government of Uzbekistan to grant permission for an international commission of inquiry into the events in Andijan; to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); to end harassment and detention of journalists and members of civil society, including human rights defenders; and to ensure fair trials.


Further to the draft, the Assembly would urge the Government to ensure full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms; to amend legislation on religious organizations to permit full freedom of thought, conscience and religion; to register independent opposition political parties and allow them to participate in elections; to lift restrictions on civil society; and to protect freedom of expression for all, including journalists.


Action on Drafts


The representative of Sweden, the main sponsor of the draft resolution on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/61/L.52) said that, on behalf of the five Nordic countries and other co-sponsors, she was pleased to report that the resolution was ready for action.  Since it had been introduced, eight countries had asked to become co-sponsors, bringing the total to 115.  The large number of co-sponsors and the draft’s adoption by consensus would be an expression of solid support for UNHCR and the role of the United Nations in humanitarian affairs.


Twelve countries then asked to become co-sponsors as well.


The draft resolution was then adopted without a vote.


Speaking in explanation of position on the draft resolution on the Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/61/L.60), the representative of United States said that she was pleased to join in the consensus, with certain understandings.  Operative paragraph 2 reaffirmed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as an international policy framework that did not create legally binding obligations on Sates under international law.  The 2005 conference had confirmed that no new rights had been created, including rights to abortion.  By “welcoming” the contributions of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to following up the Platform for Action, operative paragraph 3 was not understood as endorsing its recommendations.


The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.


The representative of Costa Rica thanked delegations for their support in reaching consensus and especially thanked the Secretariat for its important role in the negotiations.


The representative of Singapore said that language in operative paragraph 5 on withdrawing reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Optional Protocol thereto served an important purpose, in that it allowed as many countries as possible to come on board while providing each State party a certain flexibility in complying.  He was pleased that the resolution had made a distinction between compatible and incompatible reservations.


The Committee proceeded to take action on the draft resolution on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/61/L.50).  The representative of Cuba, the main sponsor, said the draft was extremely valid in today’s world.  Some States had been using mercenaries to overthrow Member States of the United States, especially developing States.  The draft condemned the use of mercenaries and called upon all countries to respect their obligations under international law and to bring persons involved in mercenary activities to justice without distinction.


Since the draft had been introduced, 10 countries had asked to join as co-sponsors, the representative said.  The Cuban delegation had found an error in operative paragraph 12 of the Spanish version and asked that it be corrected by the Secretariat.  All delegations were called upon to support the draft and reflect a firm condemnation by the international community of the use of mercenaries as a violation of human rights and an impediment to the right of peoples to self-determination.


Liberia and Sri Lanka than presented themselves as co-sponsors.


The Vice Chairman announced that a recorded vote had been requested.  The representative of Cuba asked to know who had requested the vote; the Vice Chairman replied that it was his information that it had been Finland.


Explaining how her delegation would vote, the representative of the United States said that it would vote no.  Her country deplored the use of mercenaries who in most cases had been closely linked to terrorist and criminal activities.  United States citizens and military personnel had been targets of mercenary activity.  However, the topic was one better taken up by the Security Council; it was inappropriate for the Third Committee to spend its valuable time on it.


The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union shared many of the concerns about the dangers of mercenary activities and the negative impact it could have on the nature and duration of armed conflict.  Mercenaries had also been implicated in terrorist activities.  But the European Union regretted that it could not support the draft, as it was not convinced that the Third Committee was the right forum for dealing with the problem of mercenary activity.  It was not appropriate to approach it as a matter of human rights and self-determination.  The use of mercenaries and the elaboration of the legal definition of mercenary activities fell within the competence of the Sixth Committee.


The Committee then adopted the draft by a vote of 116 in favour to 49 against, with 5 abstentions ( Fiji, Liechtenstein, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland).  (See annex I.)


Speaking afterwards, the representative of Argentina said her delegation had voted in favour, but felt that the draft’s references to self-determination had not been put in their appropriate context.  Referring to the Malvinas Islands, she said her country wished that amendments that it had proposed for the draft had been taken into consideration.


The Committee then took note of the report of the Secretary-General on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/61/333).


Speaking on a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan (document A/C.3/61/L.39), the representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed what that Movement’s heads of State and Government had agreed upon at its recent Summit Conference, namely that exploitation of human rights for political purposes, including selective targeting of individual countries for extraneous considerations, should be prohibited.  The Movement’s leaders also condemned selectivity and double standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as all attempts to exploit human rights as a pretext for political purposes.  He encouraged all members of the Movement to adhere to those principles when casting their votes on country-specific draft resolutions before the Third Committee.


The representative of United States said that in light of the 8 November 2006 European Union meeting with Uzbekistan…


The Chair then gavelled her to stop speaking and gave the floor to the representative of Uzbekistan.


The representative of Uzbekistan apologized for interrupting and said that no action should be taken on the resolution, based on the General Assembly’s rules of procedure, as well as on the agreement of the heads of State of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, the decision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) countries on 25 September opposing country-specific resolutions as selective, and a similar decision by the African Union (AU).


The Chair said that he would give floor to two delegations in favour of the motion for no action and two delegations that opposed it, after which there would be a vote on the motion.


The representative of Azerbaijan said she was in favour of the no action motion.


The representative of China said that she also supported the no action motion.  It was regrettable that the draft was so confrontational.  Since adoption of a similar resolution at the last session of the General Assembly, Uzbekistan had made efforts to resolve the issues under discussion.  It had sent a high-level delegation to participate in current session of the Third Committee and had engaged in extensive dialogue and made various efforts to protect human rights.  She hoped the parties involved in the resolution could review that material, and she called upon other delegations to support no action on the resolution.


The representative of United States said that, as she understood the rules of procedure, substantive statements were not required at the present moment.


The representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union, said that he opposed the motion to close the debate and prevent the Committee from dealing with country-specific resolutions.  No country, large or small, was above the consideration of human rights forums.  The Third Committee must address the situation in Uzbekistan based on the serious and continuing human rights violations there.  The human rights community must continue to draw attention to such situations; otherwise, it would let down the people it was trying to protect.  If the General Assembly remained silent and was unable to consider issues such as those contained in the resolution, it would undermine its own credibility.  The Third Committee was the only human rights body with universal membership, and as such should be dealing with the issue.  He urged delegates to vote against the motion for no action.


The representative of Canada said that the current action was in direct opposition to aspirations for the General Assembly to be relevant in world affairs.  It would negate the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Assembly, undermine its credibility, and weaken its relevance.  “In short, such a motion marginalizes the General Assembly,” he said.  “Is that what we want?”  He said that some might argue that the Committee should only discuss what should be done, i.e., norms, not what was actually done, i.e., implementation.  That was like saying that the United Nations was only about theory, not reality.  The people it served expected better.  When victims had no recourse in their own country, they had no choice but to count on the United Nations.  He asked whether the body would abandon its role and fail them.


As for the Human Rights Council, he said that everyone agreed that it was necessary to continue to build the Council.  The Third Committee still had a role to play in human rights issues.  Assuming that all delegations favoured an important role for the General Assembly, the way to express that would be to reject the non-action motion and maintain the integrity of the Third Committee and reaffirm the relevance of the General Assembly.


The Committee then approved the no action motion by a vote of 74 in favour to 69 opposed, with 24 abstentions.  (See Annex II.)


Right of reply


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom referred to statements made by the representative of Argentina when action had been taken on draft resolutions A/C.3/61/L.46 and A/C.3/61/L.50.  He said the position of his country regarding the Falkland Islands was well-known, and it had been last set out by its Permanent Representative in a letter to the Secretary-General on 4 October 2006.  The United Kingdom had no doubts regarding its sovereignty over the Islands and there could be no discussions about the Islands unless their inhabitants so wished.


Programme of work


The Secretary announced that informal consultations would be taking place for the rest of the day, and it was anticipated that all pending drafts would be listed for action on Tuesday morning, 21 November.


ANNEX I


Vote on Use of Mercenaries


The draft resolution on the use of mercenaries impeding the right to self-determination (document A/C.3/61/L.50) was approved by a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 49 against, with 5 abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Against:  Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.


Abstain:  Fiji, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Switzerland.


Absent:  Afghanistan, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.


ANNEX II


Vote on Human Rights in Uzbekistan


The motion for no action on the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan (document A/C.3/61/L.39) was approved by a recorded vote of 74 in favour to 69 against, with 24 abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, China, Comoros, Congo, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Against:  Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay.


Abstain:  Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Swaziland, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania.


Absent:  Armenia, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.