MAJORITY OF REAL, BURNING HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS IN WORLD HAVE NOT EARNED ATTENTION OF NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD
MAJORITY OF REAL, BURNING HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS IN WORLD HAVE NOT EARNED ATTENTION OF NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
47th Meeting (AM)
Majority of real, burning human rights situations in world have not earned
Attention of New Human Rights Council, Third Committee Told
Draft Resolution on Report
Of Human Rights Council Approved by Overwhelming Majority
A draft resolution that would have the General Assembly endorse texts adopted by the Human Rights Council on the latter’s functioning and the conduct of its Special Rapporteurs was overwhelmingly approved by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, with Israel and the United States, however, expressing their strong disappointment at the Council’s first year of work.
By a recorded vote of 165 in favour to 7 against, with 3 abstentions (see annex), the Committee approved the draft re-titled, by way of an amendment, “Report of the Human Rights Council”, which now goes to the Assembly for adoption.
Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau and the United States voted against the draft with abstentions from Equatorial Guinea, Nauru and Swaziland.
When it was tabled before the Committee, the draft was titled “Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council”, with a single operative paragraph that would have had the Assembly welcome an eponymous text contained as a lengthy annex. Included in that text were resolutions taken by the Council on “institution-building” on 18 June 2007 -- when that body determined its working methods, agenda and the functioning of the Universal Periodic Review.
By way of an amendment put forward by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Alignment Movement, which was approved without a vote, the draft was given its new title. The operative paragraphs were meanwhile changed to have the Assembly take note of the Council’s resolution on institution-building, and also a text on a Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate-Holders. The operative paragraphs went on to endorse the decision of the Council to adopt both resolutions on 18 June 2007.
Introducing the amendment, the representative of Cuba underlined how it had amassed 131 co-sponsors, a number that would demonstrate political support for decisions of the Geneva-based Council.
A number of countries, however, criticized the decisions to do away with the special mandates for Cuba and Belarus. The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, said her group would have liked the Council to have retained all special procedure mandates. She also said there had been no need for the code of conduct, and that the Occupied Palestinian Territory should not have been made a separate item on the Council’s agenda; that said, however, by voting for the amended resolution, the Union was endorsing an agreed set of compromises.
The representatives of Israel and the United States disassociated themselves from consensus on the amendment. Israel said that since its inception, the Council had been incapable of following its own mandate. The majority of real, burning human rights situations in the world had not earned the Council’s attention, and there was, therefore, no universality, he said.
The representative of the United States said the Council’s record had so far not only failed to fulfil his country’s hopes, it had even fallen below its expectations. He added, however, that it would be deeply gratifying if the process of the Universal Periodic Review subjected the world’s worst human rights violators to real scrutiny, and, if the Council stood ready to respond to genuine human rights emergencies, as it had recently in the case of “Burma”.
In other business today, the Committee completed hearing statements on the draft resolution on eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations, including in conflict and related situations, which had been adopted the day before without a vote.
It also approved, without a vote, as orally amended, a draft resolution on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The representative of Estonia, the draft resolution’s main sponsor, said the agency’s work was important in helping countries to empower women, as well as advance gender justice in democratic governance, among other issues. A related text on the term of office of the members of the Consultative Committee on the United Nations Development Fund for Women was also approved without a vote.
In its final action today the Committee also approved a draft resolution on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination. The representative of Pakistan, the draft’s main sponsor, said the right to self-determination was the cornerstone of the United Nations Charter and has been affirmed by all the major international summits, declarations and resolutions of the Organization. The resolution’s adoption by acclamation since its introduction in the 1980s epitomized the Assembly’s affirmation of that principle.
The representative of Portugal speaking on behalf of the European Union, said full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms was essential. The thrust of the resolution, however, was too narrow and it contained a number of inaccuracies on international law. Self-determination was not a precondition for other rights. The Union could only reiterate that point in the hope that next year would be different.
Statements in exercise of the right of reply were also made today by the representatives of United States, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sudan and United Kingdom.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 19 November, to hear the introduction of a number of draft resolutions and to take action on others.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to take action on a number of draft resolutions.
They included texts entitled Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/62/L.32 and amendments contained in document A/C.3/62/L.84, and programme budget implications contained in document A/C.3/62/L.60), Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/62/L.56), Globalization and its impact on the full employment of all human rights (document A/C.3/62/L.31), Human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/62/L.39), Human rights in the administration of justice (document A/C.3/62/L.45), Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/C.3/62/L.46), and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (document A/C.3/62/L.36/Rev.1). (For more information on these drafts, please see press release GA/SHC/3905, dated 14 November 2007, and press release GA/SHC/3906, dated 15 November 2007).
The Committee heard more general statements following its approval without a vote the day before of the draft resolution on eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations, including in conflict and related situations (document A/C.3/62/L.16/Rev.3).
The representative of Liechtenstein welcomed the approval of resolution “L.16/Rev.3”, concurring with those delegations, who during negotiations, had stressed the urgency for the international community to act against systematic rape in conflict-affected societies. The International Criminal Court had a key role to play in ending impunity, including in cases where rape was concerned. He regretted that the main sponsor had not taken language on board to reflect that key role; for that reason, Liechtenstein did not co-sponsor the draft.
The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, also welcomed the approval of the draft, and called for a much greater response from the international community on the issue, which was also being addressed by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Effective cooperation by States, as well as international and regional organizations, was essential for that Court to carry out its activities, she said. The European Union’s co-sponsorship of the draft was evidence of its commitment to work with others. That the General Assembly was taking leadership on the issue was commendable; others within the United Nations system should address the matter as well.
The representative of Sierra Leone said his delegation had joined the consensus on behalf of rape victims all over the world, especially those in his country. The resolution was not only about rape, but also about its victims, including innocent children born as a result of rape. During the conflict in Sierra Leone, the Government had pleaded with rebels to let children go; they included girls who carried the baggage of forced pregnancy, with babies on their backs, and suffering from sometimes incurable diseases. Assistance had to be provided, including reparations, to victims of rape, including children born as a result of it.
The representative of Canada, speaking also on behalf of New Zealand, said they attached great importance to the urgent need to eliminate rape and other forms of sexual violence, including in conflict situations. Their commitment was reflected in numerous initiatives in which they had played an active role. He also highlighted the important role of the International Criminal Court in the issue of violence against women. The resolution was interpreted as falling within a broader international normative framework that included the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Chairman then invited the Committee to take action on a draft resolution entitled United Nations Development Fund for Women (document A/C.3/62/L.17/Rev.1).
The representative of Estonia, the draft resolution’s main sponsor, said she had the honour to present the document as agreed in consultations. She then listed numerous co-sponsors to the draft, and on behalf of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Consultative Committee, thanked all delegations which had participated in developing it. The work of UNIFEM was important in supporting countries in achieving the goals of women’s empowerment, as well as advancing gender justice in democratic governance, among other issues. She then made some oral amendments to the draft text.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution, as orally revised, without a vote.
The representative of the United States, in a statement following action on the draft, said the United States understood that references to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and their five- and 10-year reviews, did not create any rights and, in particular, did not create or recognize a right to abortion. They could not be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion.
In a statement of a technical nature, the representative of France said his delegation had co-sponsored the draft resolution, but had reservations to some terms in the French version, and would have proposals, including some corrections, to the French text.
Note was taken of that by the Committee Secretary, who suggested that the delegate discuss the issue with the editors of the text so that a corrected version could be included in the Committee’s report to the General Assembly.
The Committee then took action on a draft resolution on the term of office of the members of the Consultative Committee on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (document A/C.3/62/L.l8/Rev.1). The representative of Estonia, the main sponsor, noted the contents of the draft and expressed the hope that it would be adopted by consensus. The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.
The Committee then moved to take action on the draft resolution on Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/62/L.32).
The representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, introduced an amendment to “L.32” contained in document A/C.3/62/L.84, which he said would replace the text of the draft. The draft would be renamed “Report of the Human Rights Council,” and have the General Assembly endorse the “historic” resolutions of that Council on institution-building and a code of conduct for the Council’s special procedures mandate-holders. The amendment was a cross-regional initiative with broad support from the five regional groups. Given its co-sponsorship by 131 countries, it would show political support for what had been achieved in Geneva by the Council. Support for the amendment would revitalize the call for multilateralism and international cooperation.
The Secretary, Moncef Khane, explained that the statement on programme budget implications contained in document A/C.3/62/L.60 would apply to the amendment if it was approved. As in the case of other amendments, the Committee would first take action on the amendment; if that document was approved, then action would be taken on the draft resolution as amended. The Committee would then be invited to take note of the Report of the Human Rights Council as a whole. Delegations would have an opportunity to make statements as the process unfolded.
The representative of Israel, asking for clarification, said it was his delegation’s understanding that the amendment did not constitute a new proposal. If that were the case, it would follow that after the draft was amended, the Committee would take action on the draft as amended.
The Chairman, Raymond Wolfe ( Jamaica), confirmed that was the correct.
The representative of Israel said his delegation was disassociating itself from consensus on the amendment, as it could not agree to elements contained in it.
The representative of the United States also disassociated his delegation from the consensus.
The Committee than adopted the amendment without a vote.
The representative of Israel then requested a recorded vote on the draft as amended.
The representative of the United States said his delegation was compelled to vote against the seriously flawed institution package. His country had always believed that the protection and promotion of human rights were an important part of the United Nations reason for being. The intention had been for the Human Rights Council to be different from, and better than, its predecessor. Unfortunately, it had been created with deep structural flaws, particularly the Assembly’s decision not to adopt a provision that would have excluded the world’s most serious human rights violators from membership on the Council. The United States had hoped that the institution-building session would have addressed deficiencies, but the Council’s record so far had not only failed to fulfil hopes, but even fallen below expectations.
He then itemized some of the things that had gone wrong in the Council’s first year. They included its relentless focus on a single country, Israel; the failure to address serious human rights violations in countries such as Zimbabwe, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Belarus and Cuba; the premature termination of the mandates of special rapporteurs charged with monitoring Cuba and Belarus; and the inclusion in the permanent agenda of the Council of one item dealing with a specific country, namely Israel. In addition, unfair and non-transparent procedures had been employed to deny Council members the opportunity to vote on the package now being considered by the Committee; that tactic amounted to calling an election for a certain day, then telling voters who turned up on that day that it had been held at midnight the night before. The United States hoped to be proven wrong in its assessment. It also hoped that the Universal Periodic Review would subject the world’s worst human rights violators to real scrutiny and persuade them to mend their ways. In addition, he hoped that the Council would respond to genuine human rights emergencies, as it had admirably done to Burma, and that it would pass strong and accurate resolutions about country-specific human rights situations. His delegation also looked to the Council to stand in solidarity with victims of human rights violators and not with the perpetrators.
At the request of the representative of Myanmar, the Chairman asked delegations to use the official names of Member States.
The representative of Palau said his delegation would vote against “L.32” because the agenda of the Programme of Work of the Human Rights Council was not balanced. Israel was singled out for permanent and general suspicion. That was a profound defect which threatened to put the Committee in the same category as the Human Rights Commission it had replaced. The vote on “L.32” signified a crossroads: a decision had to be made on whether to take the path of jeopardizing the legitimacy of the whole institution for the sake of a weak compromise, or whether to take the path following faith in common commitments. For that reason, his delegation would vote against the draft.
The representative of Israel said the decision which had mandated a new Human Rights Council called for it to be created without distinction of any kind. Yet, since its inception, that body was not capable of following its own mandate. As it was, it violated the very foundation for the Programme of Work which it sought to implement. When the majority of real, burning human rights situations in the world had not earned the Council’s attention, there was no universality. It was clear there was no consensus in the room, he said, and added that his delegation felt that consensus on the issue never really existed in the first place. In the final hours of the Council’s fifth session, an agreement was mysteriously declared when there was none. Israel would vote against “L.32”. He also called on all to take a frank and honest look at human rights situations around the world and ask if the institution-building package would really enable the Council to promote and protect such rights.
The representative of the Federated States of Micronesia said his delegation endorsed human rights, but could not agree to the singling out of one Member State for political reasons. All had to be treated equally, and all had to adhere to the same scrutiny. His delegation would therefore vote against the current draft.
The representative of Belarus said his delegation supported the decision on the package for the Human Rights Council. It was important that the decision was made by consensus. There was a good possibility for effective distribution of functions between the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council. The Council had all the mechanisms to look at human rights in all countries without narrowing the functions of the Committee. Belarus agreed with Israel’s call to look at the question of institution-building.
The representative of Australia said the package was unbalanced. Furthermore, his delegation was concerned about the last-minute removal of Belarus and Cuba, which warranted more scrutiny. Also, an agenda item on Palestine institutionalized an excessive focus on one region alone. Australia’s longstanding view was that singling out only one country was unhelpful, and his delegation would vote against “L.32”. He also expressed concerns about the highly unorthodox procedure used to finance the package, which had set a dangerous precedent. The Human Rights Council had to demonstrate that it could consistently respond to urgent human rights situations around the world. That institution had to advance the cause of human rights and should not be politicized.
The representative of Canada said his delegation had made a general statement last week on the report and now wanted to explain its vote on the institution-building package. His country’s position at the fifth session was clear and had not changed. The agenda item on Palestine and other occupied Arab territories was not consistent with the principles on which the Council was founded. While not perfect, there were many positive elements in the package, but Canada did not and could not endorse something that included an item so contradictory to the founding principles. The package failed to treat all mandates equally. While all other mandates had limited terms, the mandate on Palestine did not. In stark contrast, country mandates for situations which warranted continued scrutiny had not been renewed. Canada rejected the manner in which the institution-building package was pushed through at the fifth session, where procedural manoeuvring had taken precedence. Agreement was declared when it did not exist. In the rush to come to a conclusion, Canada was denied its right to call for a vote on the substance of the package to explain their disagreement with its flawed elements. This did a disservice to the Council and the causes it espoused. That body had to do better than flout basic procedural principles. His delegation would vote against the resolution.
The representative of China said the institution-building package had been the result of arduous consultations. Though not perfect, it reflected the common understanding of all sides, and it had been adopted by consensus. The Human Rights Council had already begun its work regarding Universal Periodic Review and special mechanisms; it was getting on track. China called on all sides to look at the general picture and to vote in favour of the amended draft.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution on the report of the Human Rights Council, as amended, by a recorded vote of 165 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 3 abstentions (Equatorial Guinea, Nauru, Swaziland). (Please see annex).
In explanation of vote, the representative of Pakistan noted that, despite faults in the institution-building package, the work of the Human Rights Council had been launched. Pakistan had voted in favour of the draft and was satisfied with its approval.
Speaking on a point of order, the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina wished to register her vote in favour of the draft, as it had not appeared on the voting board.
Resuming his statement, the representative of Pakistan expressed the hope that implementation of the institution-building package and the code of conduct for mandate holders of special procedures would instil more confidence in the Council. It was understood by Pakistan that the Council would address the right of self-determination, which was the most important collective human right.
The representative of Cubarecalled that his country had been part of the consensus that had adopted the institution-building package and the code of conduct. The Council should now begin its work along a path of dialogue and cooperation, avoiding the selectivity and double standards that had harmed the credibility of the Commission on Human Rights, where there had been an anti-Cuba mandate. The institution-building package had not gone as far as Cuba had hoped, and some special mandates remained. The right to development should have been assigned priority on the Council’s agenda. But, there were good sides to the institution-building package, and it was a matter of elementary justice for attention to be given to the just cause of the Palestinian people.
The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, said that, in voting for the amended resolution, Member States of the European Union were enabling the Council to address human rights issues in a timely manner, wherever they occurred. The European Union would have liked to have retained all special procedures mandates; it also saw no need for the code of conduct. The Occupied Palestinian Territory should not have become a separate agenda item; other ways existed to address that situation. Some attempts to reinterpret the institution-building package were a matter of concern. By voting for the amended resolution, the European Union was endorsing its acceptance of an agreed set of compromises.
The representative of the Netherlands said her country had voted “yes” on the institution-building package in a spirit of compromise and cooperation, although it had concerns that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been singled out, and that special mandates for Belarus and Cuba had been discontinued. The code of conduct, meanwhile, was redundant. However, her country welcomed the Universal Periodic Review, the continuation of independent special procedures, and the continuation of thematic and country mandates.
The representative of Poland reaffirmed that the promotion and protection of human rights was essential to development, peace and security. The success of the Council depended on everyone. Though the institution-building package was a platform on which to build in the years to come, Poland was not fully satisfied with it. It deeply regretted that not all special mandates and procedures had been maintained, including those regarding Belarus and Cuba. It was difficult to see any justification for such a decision; it contradicted a main task of the Council, namely, to address situations of human rights violations and to make recommendations. Poland sincerely hoped that the Council would be in a position to live up to its responsibility; no effort would be spared to achieve that goal.
The representative of Japan said his delegation welcomed the institution-building package, and considered it unfortunate that it was not adopted by consensus in light of the efforts to produce it. It was now the responsibility of the international community to implement the package promptly and act effectively. Japan would play an active role in the Human Rights Council, he said, and added his regrets at the huge financial implications of the package.
The representative of Iran said his delegation had voted in favour of the package and wished to express satisfaction that it had been adopted by a very strong majority. His delegation, however, wished to reserve its position on a certain number of items. The Universal Periodic Review would best achieve its goals through dialogue with the country under review. Sovereign States were only accountable to their own legal commitments. He welcomed the code of conduct for mandate holders, and supported the process of review rationalization and streamlining such mandates. His delegation also stressed that the mandate of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory would be valid until the end of the occupation.
The representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation aligned itself with the statement made by Portugal on behalf of the European Union. His country was a committed member of the Human Rights Council, which had a vital role to play in protection of human rights for people everywhere. The United Kingdom had worked actively with all partners towards the adoption of the package, and valued its provisions vis-à-vis the contribution of special rapporteurs, whose expertise was enriching. His delegation was pleased with the provisions on the agenda to address violations at every session, and also welcomed the Universal Periodic Review -- an important innovation. The United Kingdom looked forward to its own review, but was disappointed by certain elements, including the loss of two special rapporteurs on situations of concern. His delegation was also concerned by the standing agenda item on Palestine, which was unnecessary. The practice of “singling out one” risked undermining the Human Rights Council’s own principles. The United Kingdom was committed to the full implementation of the package despite elements in it that it could not support. As an expression of its commitment, his country had voted in favour of the institution-building package today.
The representative of Swaziland said she was taking the floor to correct a technical error during the vote. Swaziland had intended to vote in favour of the package, but the record reflected an abstention.
The Chairman said it had been duly noted.
The representative of Liechtenstein said although he was pleased the General Assembly had now adopted the Human Rights Council’s institution-building package, his delegation believed that it did not have to endorse that package, which was an autonomous decision by the Council. Like many, Liechtenstein was not happy with all the elements of it, as it had hoped for a leaner and more meaningful package. Nevertheless, it provided a good basis for future work, and it was now time to move towards its implementation. The Council was a young institution, and could only manage that if States gave their full political support.
The representative of France said his country aligned itself with the explanation of vote made by Portugal, and said his delegation had voted in favour of “L.32” because it believed the package met a need to confirm the establishment of an institutional machinery. No delegation could believe that all objectives had been achieved, but that was the essence of compromise. France regretted that the agenda was imbalanced by the singling out of Palestine, which was contrary to non-selectivity. He deplored the fact that mandates on Belarus and Cuba had been abolished. His delegation recalled that it was also incumbent on all States to cooperate with the special procedures. The activities undertaken by the Council showed that the package was not an obstacle to decision-making. The establishment of the Human Rights Council was only the beginning, and effective work had to be conducted to meet the expectations of public opinion.
The representative of the Czech Republic said her country aligned itself with the statement made by Portugal on behalf of the European Union. The elimination of mandates on Belarus and Cuba was unfortunate, and the Human Rights Council was losing the opportunity to maintain an ongoing scrutiny of those two countries.
The representative of Syria said her delegation had voted in favour of “L.32”, convinced that it had been adopted in a balanced, just and fair manner in Geneva. Syria was committed to the success of the Human Rights Council, pursuant to the principles that all situations be dealt with objectively. Her delegation would like to affirm that the Council should follow all human rights situations, including the right to self-determination. She also expressed thanks to the Human Rights Council for giving all due attention to the human rights situation in Palestine and especially in the Golan.
The representative of Sudan said the creation of the Human Rights Council was the outcome of lengthy negotiations, which had taken took into account the fact that the previous Committee had become politicized. The Council’s adoption of its package was the fruit of compromise, he said, and highlighted Mexico. The adoption of the document, including the code of conduct for mandate holders, was reasonable and balanced. His delegation had voted in favour of the resolution.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea requested a correction of her country’s vote. Her delegation had not meant to abstain but to vote in favour of the draft resolution.
The Chairman said it had been duly noted, and then opened the floor for general statements.
The representative of Palestine said her delegation had expressed its views on the institution-building package during debate on the item. It had to be clear to the majority of Member States that Israel was not being singled out, but that it had singled itself out as an extraordinary violator of the human rights of the Palestinian people. Focused attention was required on the issue to bring an end to such systematic violations, she said.
The representative of Cuba said Cuba understood why the United States and their “acolytes” had opposed the draft resolution just adopted: not because they wanted a credible Council, but because they wanted to return to the Commission where they could be silent about Guantanamo and other secret prisons. The overwhelming majority of Member States had today responded by advocating multilateralism on human rights. His country knew what the moral status of the United States was and what is its policy against Cuba was, and his delegation therefore rejected such hypocrisy and cynicism.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) then took note of the Report of the Human Rights Council (document A/62/53).
The representative of Israel said that problems at the Council had made it impossible for her delegation to join consensus, and asked that its disassociation from consensus be entered into the record of the meeting.
The representative of the United States added that his delegation was disassociating itself from consensus on the resolution adopting portions of the Report of the Council other than the institution-building package. The Council’s unwillingness to take action at all on deplorable human rights situations in Zimbabwe had been disappointing; it had also failed to address egregious violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and eliminated the mandates on Cuba and Belarus, two of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights.
The representative of Palau disassociated his delegation from consensus as well.
The representative of Sudan suggested that the Council look into the situation of human rights in the United States, including “concentration camps”.
The representative of the United States thanked his counterparts from Cuba and Sudan for their interventions. On a point of order, the representative of Sudan said that the United States was clearly exercising a right of reply, which should be done at the end of the session.
The Chairman asked the representative of the United States to make his statement later, and asked the Committee to move on. The Secretary then indicated that in fact the time had come for rights of reply.
Rights of Reply
Resuming his intervention, the representative of the United States said that what Cuba and Sudan had said showed they did not disagree on as many things as had been thought. Now it was understood that, in some cases, naming and shaming of human rights violators was permissible. The United States was glad to see agreement on that point.
The representative of Cuba, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said there was no agreement on anything that had been said by the United States. Cuba did not want to have double standards or selectivity, nor did it wish to provoke wars on behalf of human rights. Cuba did not disregard the Charter of the United Nations, and it cooperated with the various bodies of the organization. The United States, to the contrary, violated civil rights in other countries, and it was mainly responsible for crimes committed against the Palestinian people. It conducted torture at secret prisons in Guantanamo and elsewhere. Cuba disagreed with the position of the United States on human rights.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that the United States had mentioned the name of his country twice during the meeting. The United States had a history of aggression; was it a model to pursue? Was there any worse violator of human rights than the United States? The United States was not in a position to talk about human rights situations in other countries; it practised blatant discriminations against Afro-Americans, Latin Americans, people of Asian origin and indigenous peoples.
The representative of Sudan said that in his country there was a proverb: “You cannot dance while trying to hide your chin.” That was what the United States had been trying to do. There was no agreement between Sudan and the United States regarding human rights issues. The worst offences took place at the huge detention centre at Guantanamo, where visits by the special rapporteur had been refused by the United States. The doors of such detention centres should be opened so that the truth could be learned. The United States had always insisted on naming countries, as if it were a superpower that could give lessons in democracy and human rights. But, its own record on democracy and human rights had been tantamount to zero.
The Chairman then invited the Committee to take action on a draft resolution on Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/62/L.56).
The representative of Pakistan, the draft resolution’s main sponsor, said the right to self-determination was the cornerstone of the United Nations Charter, and has been affirmed by all the major international summits, declarations and resolutions of the Organization. The resolution’s adoption by acclamation since its introduction in the 1980s epitomized the General Assembly’s affirmation of that central principle, she said, and added her delegation’s hopes it would be adopted by consensus, as per tradition.
The Committee then adopted the draft resolution without a vote. The Chairman then opened the floor for statements following the vote.
The representative of Venezuela welcomed the adoption of the decision, which committed the international community to the universal right of peoples to self-determination.
The representative of Argentina said her delegation supported the right of those who were living under colonial occupation to self-determination. She referred to the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization and the differences between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The way to resolve it was to resolve the dispute, taking into consideration the interests of the people of the Falkland Islands.
The representative of Portugal spoke on behalf of the European Union, and said the right of peoples to self-determination was a fundamental principle of international law. The issue deserved the attention of the international community. Self-determination was associated with respect for democracy and rule of law. Full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms was essential. The thrust of the resolution, however, remained too narrow, and it contained a number of inaccuracies on international law. Self-determination was not a precondition for other rights. The European Union could only reiterate that point in the hope that next year would be different.
The representative of Liechtenstein said his country advocated a staged approach to self-determination. He noted that, as in past years, the way in which the resolution had been promoted left no room for discussion on a broader approach to the issue. The resolution had been a failed opportunity; it was hoped that in the future, there could be an open and inclusive discussion.
Right of reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom referred to remarks made by Argentina on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. The position of the United Kingdom was well known, and had been set out recently by its Permanent Representative during the high-level session of the General Assembly at which the President of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, spoke. The
United Kingdom had no doubts about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. It firmly believed in the islanders’ rights to determine their own future. There could be no discussion of sovereignty until such time that the islands so wished.
The representative of Cuba took the floor to announce that the reception that his delegation normally hosted quite modestly at its Permanent Mission would be held on 7 December 2007. He then named representatives from the different regional groups from whom tickets could be obtained.
The representative of Jamaica then drew attention to a reception that the Chairman would be hosting in the evening.
Vote on Report of Human Rights Council
The draft resolution on the report of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/62/L.32) was approved by a recorded vote of 165 in favour to 7 against, with 3 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau, United States.
Abstain: Equatorial Guinea, Nauru, Swaziland.
Absent: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Dominica, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, Tajikistan, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
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