Saying Torture Can ‘Never Be Justified,’ Third Committee Approves Text Condemning Any Attempt to Legalize, Authorize, Including on National Security Grounds

10 November 2009
GA/SHC/3965

Saying Torture Can ‘Never Be Justified,’ Third Committee Approves Text Condemning Any Attempt to Legalize, Authorize, Including on National Security Grounds

10 November 2009
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3965
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Third Committee

40th Meeting (AM)


Saying Torture Can ‘Never Be Justified,’ Third Committee Approves Text Condemning


Any Attempt to Legalize, Authorize, Including on National Security Grounds


Also Approves Texts on Improving Situation of Rural Women,

Realizing Millennium Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities


Saying torture can “never be justified,” the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly condemn all forms of torture and any action, or even attempts, by States or public officials to legalize, authorize or acquiesce in torture and other inhuman treatment under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security or through judicial decisions.


That resolution, entitled “on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, was one of three drafts approved by consensus, alongside a text on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in realizing the Millennium Development Goals, and on improvement of the situation of women in rural areas.


The resolution on torture, introduced by the representative of Denmark, would have the Assembly stress that wherever there was reasonable ground to believe that torture and other inhuman treatment had been committed, those who encouraged, ordered, tolerated or perpetrated such acts must be held responsible, brought to justice, and punished in a manner commensurate with the severity of the offence.  That would include officials in charge of the place of detention where the act had been committed.


By further terms, the Assembly would strongly urge States to ensure that no statement made as a result of torture was invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except as evidence against a person accused of torture.  They would also be called on to consider extending that prohibition to statements made as a result of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


The approved draft would have the Assembly urge States not to expel, return, extradite or transfer a person to another State where there were substantial grounds for believing that he or she was in danger of being tortured.  It would recognize that diplomatic assurances, where used, did not release States from their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, in particular the principle of non-refoulement.


The representative of Syria, who spoke after the resolution was approved, reiterated the importance of not using war, the threat of war, political instability or any other emergency as a pretext for conducting torture.  She stressed that States should abide by their commitments under the United Nations Convention against Torture, which called on them to take legislative, administrative and judicial measures to prevent torture in any region subject to their jurisdiction.  And indeed, the resolution contained wording that would have the Assembly emphasize that acts of torture in armed conflict were serious violations of international humanitarian law and, as such, constituted war crimes and could constitute crimes against humanity. 


Also speaking after its approval, a few delegates voiced what they thought would have been useful additions to the text, even as they affirmed their general support for it.  The representative of Chile said she would have preferred a reference to capital punishment.  The representative of South Africa said he would have preferred some reference to contemporary manifestations of torture and inhuman treatment, mentioning closure of the facilities at Guantánamo Bay as an example.


However, while the text would have the Assembly call on States to respond fully and speedily to appeals by the Special Rapporteur on torture, the representative of China said her Government had chosen to disassociate itself from a paragraph in the text that would have the Assembly take note of the Rapporteur’s report, which she said had contained “unfounded allegations against States”.  She said the Chinese Government, while supporting international efforts to prevent torture, would only carry out recommendations made by bodies that were not “politicized”.


A second draft approved by the Committee, also without a vote, was entitled “Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities,” presented by the United Republic of Tanzania.  By its terms, the Assembly would call on Governments to include issues facing disabled persons in their review of progress on the Millennium Development Goals.  They would be called on to gather data on the situation of persons with disabilities, to enable them to plan, monitor, and evaluate their policies in a way that was sensitive to the needs of disabled persons.  To help carry out those goals, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to promote the use of the Guidelines and Principles for the Development of Disability Statistics and the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses.


The Committee approved a third draft, again without a vote, by which the Assembly would urge Member States to attach greater importance to the improvement of the situation of rural women, including indigenous women, in their development strategies.  Entitled “Improvement of the situation of women in rural areas,” the text would urge Member States to take steps to ensure that women’s work was recognized, including unpaid work and contributions to on-farm and off-farm production, as well as income-generating activities in the informal sector.  States were also urged to design or revise laws to ensure that, where there was private ownership of land and property, rural women are accorded full and equal rights to own land and other property.


Before approving the three draft resolutions, the Committee heard the introduction of 26 other drafts under several agenda items, ranging from a text on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to others on guidelines for the alternative care of children, the right to self-determination, and the promotion and protection of human rights.  Three country-specific resolutions ‑‑ on the situation of human rights in, respectively, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, and Iran – were also introduced today.  Speaking to introduce the drafts were the representatives of Finland, Slovenia, Brazil, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, Cuba, Germany, Benin, Norway, Sweden, Cameroon, Mexico, Colombia and Canada.


Delegates from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 12 November, to take action on further draft resolutions, including one deferred from today on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to take action on four draft resolutions, on:  improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/C.3/64/L.19); torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/64/L.23/Rev.1); the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/C.3/64/L.24); and on inclusion of persons with disabilities in realizing the Millennium Development Goals (document A/C.3/64/L.5/Rev.1).


Of the 26 texts being introduced today, two draft resolutions were on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/64/L.52*) and the enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/64/L.58) under the agenda item on the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions.


Under the agenda item on the Report of the Human Rights Council a draft text on guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (document A/C.3/64/L.50) was also being introduced, as were draft resolutions on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/64/L.51) and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/64/L.56) under the agenda item on the right of peoples to self-determination.


Eighteen drafts related to the promotion and protection of human rights were also slated for introduction, including: combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/64/L.27), promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (document A/C.3/64/L.28), strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/C.3/64/L.29), the right to food (document A/C.3/64/L.30), globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/C.3/64/L.31), national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (A/C.3/64/L.32), follow-up to the International Year of Human Rights Learning (A/C.3/64/L.33), protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (A/C.3/64/L.34), Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/C.3/64/L.38), elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief (document A/C.3/64/39), Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/64/L.40), protection of migrants (document A/C.3/64/L.41), United Nations Decade for People of African Descent (document A/C.3/64/L.44), human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/C.3/64/L.45), enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/64/L.46), the right to development (document A/C.3/64/L.47), promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies (document A/C.3/64/L.48) and human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/64/L.49).


Three more drafts related to human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives were expected to be introduced, including draft resolutions on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/64/L.35), situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/64/L.36*) and the situation of human rights in Iran (document A/C.3/64/L.37).


Introduction of Resolutions


The Committee began by hearing the introduction of over 20 texts, beginning with the draft resolution on Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/64/L.52*), introduced by the representative of Finland.


He recalled that, while the UNHCR’s primary purpose was to safeguard the rights of refugees, its Executive Committee and the General Assembly had authorized its involvement with other groups: former refugees who had returned to their homeland, internally displaced persons, and people who were stateless or whose nationalities were disputed.  The draft would draw attention to the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Convention and the fortieth anniversary of the convention governing specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa. 


He said the draft also contained paragraphs on the internal reform process and on humanitarian reform to better respond to current challenges.  The aim of internal reform had been to strengthen UNHCR’s capacity to respond to the needs of beneficiaries, and to improve the Agency’s overall management.  The draft would recognize its important role, and contribution to, making the humanitarian response more effective, and stress that partnerships with regional and national actors were of the utmost importance. 


He added that the draft would express deep concern over the security of humanitarian workers, and would underline the importance of bringing perpetrators to justice.  It also touched on refugees in the urban setting, and the implication of climate change and environmental degradation on States, as well as UNHCR efforts to address its mandate.  The Agency was not immune to the financial and economic crisis, and the text would express concern over the potential challenges that those crises could impose.  He thanked States for their constructive support, and looked forward to its adoption by consensus as in previous years.


The representative of Slovenia introduced the draft resolution on the enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/64/L.58), saying it would take note of the decision by the Economic and Social Council, and the request of the Permanent Representative of Slovenia addressed to the Secretary-General for that country to become member of UNHCR’s Executive Committee.  Her country was committed to the Agency’s aims, and stood ready to cooperate with all members of the Executive Committee.  It was dedicated to improving the situation of refugees through regional and international cooperation.  She hoped that States would give favourable consideration of Slovenia’s request and asked for the text’s adoption by consensus.


Introducing the draft text on guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (document A/C.3/64/L.50), the representative of Brazil recalled that, on 17 June 2009, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 11/7, by which it decided to submit the current guidelines to the General Assembly with a view to their adoption on the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The present text, thus, welcomed the guidelines, which would enhance the implementation of that Convention and promote the rights of the child.  She hoped the draft resolution would receive full support by all delegations and would be adopted by consensus.


The representative of Pakistan introduced the draft resolution on universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/64/L.51).  He said the right to self-determination was the cardinal principle on which the whole international system was based.  It provided an indispensable foundation for all human rights and was an essential condition for the observance, promotion and protection of those rights. It was, as a result, a key part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Moreover, major United Nations summits had all affirmed the right of people to self-determination.  The current text signified that this right was a sine qua non for all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  The right to self-determination had allowed for all people to achieve equality and had led people to seek freedom from colonial domination and foreign occupation.  Thus, the text reaffirmed that the universal realization of that right for all peoples was a fundamental condition for the promotion and protection of their human rights.  The resolution had traditionally been a consensus resolution and his delegation hoped it would again be adopted by consensus.


Next, the representative of Egypt introduced the draft resolution on right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/64/L.56), saying that the Palestinian people had been continuously suffering under Israeli occupation, which denied them of their basic human rights, including their right to self-determination.


He noted that the text, which had 11 pre-ambular paragraphs and 2 operative paragraphs, was essentially the same as the draft adopted last year, except for technical updates.  It reaffirmed the right of self-determination, recalling that this right was reaffirmed in the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Millennium Declaration, among others. It also recalled the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July 2004 regarding the construction of the wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which found that the wall severely impeded the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  The current text also called for the urgent resumption of peace negotiations and speedy conclusion of a peace settlement and stresses the need for the territorial integrity of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It was only on such territory that a Palestinian State could be established.


He went to say that in its operative section the resolution affirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and urges all states and the specialized agencies of the United Nations system to continue to support the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination. His delegation hoped that a strong signal would be sent to the Palestinian people through the adoption of this resolution.


Next, the representative of Malaysia introduced the draft resolution on combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/64/L.27), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Belarus and Venezuela.  He said the draft was tabled annually to draw attention to the defamation of religion and how it impaired an individual’s right to freedom of thought and to religion, and impeded the manifestation of that right without fear of reprisal.  The draft, built on a previous text on the same issue, emphasized the need for adequate protection from intimidation.  It also stressed the importance of measures to build respect and tolerance for all religions.  In addition, the text would recognize the intersection between religion and race. 


He said the intention behind the draft was not to limit freedom of opinion and expression, but to stress the importance of the right to religion as enshrined in international law.  There was a need to ensure that respect for both freedoms could be balanced in legal and practical terms, in an ongoing process that should be allowed to develop and evolve.  He looked forward to more dialogue on that text.


Following that introduction, the representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (document A/C.3/64/L.28).  She said that draft was tabled annually, and that the current draft took account of the impact of the economic and financial crisis on developing countries.  The draft re-stated that an equitable international order would promote the full realization of the human rights of all.  In its preambular paragraph 17, the draft would ask the United Nations Secretariat to ensure that the phrase “small island developing States” be given initial capitals, when referred to in both English and Spanish.


The representative of Cuba also introduced the draft resolution on strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/C.3/64/L.29).  She said the draft was a biennial text.  The current draft would stress certain new elements, including the importance of removing reservations.  It would also stress the importance of observing the principles of the Universal Periodic Review.  She thanked those delegations that had traditionally co-sponsored the text and asked for their support again this year.  In earlier years, the draft had been adopted by consensus.


The draft resolution on the right to food (document A/C.3/64/L.30) was also introduced by the representative of Cuba, who said that right was recognized in instruments and statements that were widely accepted around the world.  Millions had been suffering from hunger for a long time, and the food crisis had raised that number to 1 billion.  It was worrying that an immense majority of them lived in developing countries, which did not have enough food to meet basic needs.  Unless the international community could “consolidate” an “enabling environment” at both the national and international levels, it would be impossible to give that right the appropriate level of priority. 


She said hunger was a violation of human dignity. There was an urgent need for measures to eliminate it, including through the provision of technical and financial resources.  She urged that specialist agencies, international financial institutions and States take the necessary steps to end the world food crisis, defend food security and realize the right to food for individuals throughout the world.  She commended the work of Special Rapporteur to promote that right, and asked that the Secretary-General and Human Rights Council provide the Rapporteur with enough resources to fulfil his mandate.  Civil society and United Nations treaty bodies were also urged to support the Rapporteur.  She explained that the text had been updated from last year, and that amendments to the text would soon be distributed in the room as a revision.  The revised text had also been placed online, on “QuickPlace”.  She called for support for the text.


The representative of Egypt next introduced the draft resolution on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (A/C.3/64/L.31), stressing that the text’s growing number of co-sponsors attested to the growing impact of globalization on humanity.  The draft did not attempt to pass judgment on that phenomenon, but to draw attention to its impact given the world’s increasingly interconnectedness. It was an honest attempt to assess the impact of globalization on humanity in the hope that better understanding would assist the international community in meeting the resulting challenges and reaping the subsequent benefits.  Among other things, the resolution recognized that both the costs and benefits of globalization were not evenly distributed. This matter needed urgent attention, which the resolution attempted to ensure.


He went on to say that the text also highlighted the primary role of the State in the promotion and protection of human rights and underlined the need to establish a more human international order.  It called for the global development partnership established at the 2005 World Summit to be integrated in all sectors. The right to development was further highlighted and the international commitments in that regard underscored.  The text also underlined that developing countries had to be integrated in the international economy to ensure the enjoyment of human rights. His delegation hoped that the reflections of many States made in past and future reports of the Secretary-General would enhance worldwide understanding and enhance global efforts to promote and protect human rights. His delegation also hoped that draft resolution would result in dialogue.


Introducing the draft on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (A/C.3/64/L.32), the representative of Germany said it was a follow-up to General Assembly resolution 63/172 of the same title, which his delegation introduced last year for the first time and which was adopted by the General Assembly without a vote.  The text’s main objective was to reaffirm the need for national human rights institutions. It highlighted the increasingly important role these national bodies played in the international efforts to promote and protect human rights.  It urged the Secretary-General to continue to give high priority to requests by Member States for support. It also highlighted the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and noted the work of networks of national human rights institutions in Europe, Asia, Africa and the America.


He said the draft text also contained technical updates and some new language. Among these, it took note of the Secretary-General’s last report on national institutions and its conclusions. Germany held the view that this report was particularly well-written and relevant and, as a result, the text incorporated some of that report’s language.  Specifically, operative paragraph 12 had entirely new language drawn from the Secretary-General’s report regarding the use of ombudsmen.  The text also reaffirmed General Assembly 63/169 on the role of ombudsman institutions.  Further, his delegation proposed to bi-annualize this resolution and it requested the Secretary-General to report on the resolution’s implementation at the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.  He added that the current text was shorter than last year’s text. 


The representative of Benin then introduced the draft text on follow-up to the International Year of Human Rights Learning (A/C.3/64/L.33).  He said his delegation had wanted to highlight the concept of human rights learning and, to this end, four paragraphs had been introduced in the current draft.  The text insisted on the complementarity of human rights learning and education.  It further called on States to expand the efforts they made during the International Year.


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council were also called on to support, cooperate and collaborate closely with civil society and other relevant stakeholders.  Further, in paragraph four, the Human Rights Council was urged to integrate human rights learning into the preparation of the draft United Nations declaration on human rights education and training, bearing in mind the complementarity of this initiative with the World Programme for Human Rights Education and human rights learning.  A paragraph had also been inserted on civil society organizations, which were asked to formulate the concept in their interactions with populations.  Academic and community leaders were also asked to integrate human rights learning in their programmes. The treaty bodies were asked to integrate human rights learning in their State interactions.


The representative of Norway introduced the draft on protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (A/C.3/64/L.34), which he said was a biennial draft that had traditionally enjoyed universal support.  Around 26 million people were internally displaced as a result of armed conflict and violence.  An estimated 36 million were thought to be internally displaced as a result of natural disasters.  The draft would call for durable solutions to the situations facing internally displaced persons, and expressed appreciation for those countries that had passed domestic legislation dealing with all stages of displacement.  The draft touched on such factors as climate change, which was expected to worsen the situation.  It would also welcome the African Union Convention on the protection of displaced persons.  He thanked those that had participated in informal consultations, and expressed hoped that the draft would be adopted without a vote.


Another representative from Norway introduced the draft on the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/C.3/64/L.38).  She said the text was taken up biennially and had traditionally enjoyed universal support.  The draft would have the Assembly express concern over violations committed against human rights defenders.  It would reiterate the importance of the Declaration, which had been adopted by the General Assembly by consensus in 1998.  The draft would call on States to give full effect to the Declaration.  It would welcome steps taken by some States to adopt national policies and legislation to address the issue, including in their follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review.  She thanked States that had taken part in informal consultations and expressed hoped that the draft would be adopted without a vote.  She planned to table the draft next week.


Next, the representative of Sweden introduced the draft on elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief (document A/C.3/64/39), speaking on behalf of the European Union and other co-sponsors.  She said the draft was premised on the notion that everyone had the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and that freedom of thought and conscience and freedom of religion or belief were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  It would note that limited progress had been made to eliminate intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, and described actions that States were urged to take to produce more progress.  It covered areas such as: equality before the law; legal guarantees; right to life liberty and security; the right to change religions; remedies; actions of public officials and public services; registration practices; and protection of religious sites and symbols.


She said the draft would have States condemn intolerance and discrimination, as well as condemn the promotion of religious hatred in a way that constituted incitement to discrimination or violence.  It would point out the importance of education and fostering a climate of understanding and tolerance.  It would point out, as well, the importance of continued dialogue in all its forms.  That text was built on similar texts from previous years with some new elements to address violence targeted at persons of religious minorities, which was a growing problem throughout the world.  Informal consultations were taking place in a constructive atmosphere, and she expected deliberations to be concluded soon.  The draft’s adoption would reaffirm the international community’s determination to eliminate intolerance and discrimination, while promoting freedom of religion or belief.


The representative of Cameroon then introduced the draft resolution on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/64/40).  She said the draft’s goal was to ensure the support of Member States and to avail them of the Centre’s activities.  The Centre was competent in the field of human rights and sought to contribute to the training of personnel responsible for human rights and democratization activities.  It also sought to cooperate in the spread of international human rights and democratization instruments and to promote peace and democracy in the subregion.  The Secretary-General’s report on the Centre, contained in document A/64/333, attested to its dynamism and contributions.  Indeed, the Centre was a privileged actor in education and training in the human rights field and promoted harmonious intercommunity relations.


She said the text was almost identical to the text submitted last year with the exception of a new operative paragraph, which came from paragraph 44 of the Secretary-General’s report.  That paragraph welcomed the Centre and the brainstorming meeting for the period from 2009 to 2011.  She further stressed that the States of Central Africa believed their needs should be taken into account in designing the Centre’s programme.  Also, operative paragraph 7 proposed that the draft’s implementation be biannualized through the submission of a report by the Secretary-General at the General Assembly’s sixty-sixth session.  These changes did not mean that any guard was being dropped. Indeed, the States of Central Africa believed that Member States and the United Nations system should continue to support the Centre’s work, which contributed to regional peace and support for this resolution would send a strong signal on the need to consolidate, among other things, the rule of law in Central Africa.


Mexico’s delegate then introduced the draft resolution on protection of migrants (document A/C.3/64/L.41), which had been changed this year to cluster the issues related to migrants by theme.  This restructuring made the resolution clearer and easier to read.  It urged states to protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants regardless of their migratory status.  It called on all efforts to deal with migration to take an integral approach that was balanced in nature and that recognized the responsibility of countries of origin and destination. These efforts should also avoid approaches that might compound the vulnerability of such migrants.


He said that the text further highlighted the need protect the rights of migrants at a time when migration flows had increased and security concerns and activities had also stepped up.  It also noted that migrants were among the most vulnerable social groups and emphasized the need to take a human rights approach in all policies and discussions regarding them.  The text drew attention to the two debates and dialogues on international migration and development to be held in 2011 and 2013.  He called for all co-sponsors who had not yet done so to come forward, noting that the draft text was very close to consensual adoption.


The representative of Colombia then introduced the draft resolution on the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent (document A/C.3/64/L.44), which sought to promote national and international agendas aimed at ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights by people of African descent. Among other things, such persons faced obstacles in the areas of health, housing, social welfare and integration.  These had been analyzed in a number of reports, including by United Nations bodies and agencies like the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.  The text sought to promote the participation of these people at all levels of life.  It further sought to promote cooperation in all areas on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of persons of African descent, including through the principal human rights instruments.


He said his delegation had initially considered the proposal of an international decade to be appropriate. But after several negotiation sessions, different configurations were being considered that would not lose sight of the objectives already outlined.  His delegation hoped that consensus could be achieved on a resolution that would promote the full realization of the human rights of people of African descent and, in that regard, he noted his country’s own initiatives. It was essential for the international community to provide support for such measures and it was hoped that all States would pay due regard to the spirit of solidarity underpinning this text.


Following that, the representative of Cuba introduced a draft on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/C.3/64/L.45), recalling that, at the 15th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in July, the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement had stated their opposition to the use of unilateral coercive measures as a tool for exerting economic pressure on countries, including developing countries.  Cuba, as coordinator of the working group on human rights within the Non-Aligned Movement, had the honour of submitting this draft, which would have States abstain from using such measures, which were contrary to international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Unilateral coercive measures stood in the way of the enjoyment of human rights.  The resolution was tabled each year, and changes in the current draft were technical in nature.  In particular, she drew attention to preambular paragraph three.  On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, she thanked all States that traditionally supported the text.


The representative of Cuba then introduced a draft on enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/64/L.46).  She said, as coordinator of the Non-Aligned Movement working group on human rights, Cuba also had the honour of submitting the draft.  It was intended to pay due recognition to the essential nature of international cooperation in fully achieving the goals of the United Nations.  She drew attention to some technical amendments to the text.  It was likely that action could be taken on the issue this week, and she expressed hope that it would be given consensus support.


The representative of Cuba also introduced a draft on the right to development (document A/C.3/64/L.47), again speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, saying that the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement had agreed among themselves to seek greater realization of right to development at the international level.  The draft would urged that States undertook policies and measures to give effect to that right, and it would urge United Nations human rights mechanism to promote that right as a priority, including through a Convention to that effect. 


She said the text had been amended slightly from that of the previous year, to reflect Human Rights Council resolution 12/23 of 2 October.  It would also refer to recommendations in the report of the Working Group on the Right to Development, adopted by consensus in Geneva, regarding criteria for the realization of the right to development and its associated operational provisions, which the technical working group would submit to the Working Group in 2010, in addition to suggestions for future work.  It also emphasized certain essential elements of the right to development as specified in the Declaration on that right, as expressed by international community, in addition to those listed in Millennium Development Goal 8.  She thanked delegations that had participated in consultations and who had traditionally supported the right to development.  She expected the text to soon be ready for tabling.


Cuba’s delegate then introduced the draft resolution on the promotion of equitable geographical distribution in the membership of the human rights treaty bodies (document A/C.3/64/L.48), which was being submitted for the first time this year on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.  The current draft reflected concern over the composition of some human rights treaty bodies, particularly the absence of experts from African, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern European Groups.  Thus, it promoted equitable membership on the principle that it contributed to better understanding of different norms and approaches. These individuals should be selected on the basis of their individual stature. The text stressed that this issue should be included on the agenda of meetings of States parties.  In that regard, she requested the Secretariat to note that an insertion should be made in operative paragraph 3, which should now read “urges the States parities to the United Nations human rights instruments, including the bureau members, to include this matter in each meeting or Conference of States Parties”.


The SECRETARY asked if this was a change to her own draft


The representative of Cuba said this was an insertion to operative paragraph 3 and her delegation could submit a Rev.1 if necessary.


The SECRETARY said the insertion had been duly noted.


Cuba’s delegate next introduced a draft resolution on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/C.3/64/L.49). She said this resolution was submitted for the first time on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement and would be submitted biannually.  It sought to recognize that all cultures contributed to cultural diversity. It underscored the need to recognize diversity in promoting and protecting human rights. Among other things, it also recognized the need for dialogue among civilizations.  It further maintained that the United Nations system and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) should support initiatives to promote cultural diversity and human rights. Cuba hoped this draft would be adopted by consensus just as General Assembly resolution 62/155 had been adopted. She noted that a new draft could possibly be forthcoming in the near future.


The representative of Sweden introduced the draft resolution on situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/64/L.35), which her delegation was also submitting on behalf of Japan. She said that four years had passed since a resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was first tabled. The aim of the current text remained the same as the original one: to call attention to the human rights situation in that country.


She said the text recognized some positive signs from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea over the past year, including, among other things, its participation in the Committee on the Rights of the Child. But these positive steps were few, despite appeals to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in this regard.  The Government had failed to cooperate with special procedures, including the Special Rapporteur, and to put an end to the grave and widespread violations of human rights within the country. The text, thus, called on the Government to cooperate.


She stressed that, due to the grave violations of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, the present resolution was still inevitable. Her delegation remained concerned over the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, particularly the use of torture, public executions, extrajudicial or arbitrary executions, the use of the death penalty, collective punishment and the existence of a large number of prisons camps, among other things.  Co-sponsors were also concerned with the large number of asylum seekers emanating from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as the treatment of those who returned. She urged all States to uphold the principle of non-refoulement.  She also re-urged States parties to comply with the obligations of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1961 Protocol.


She further noted that the violation of social and cultural rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had also led to widespread malnutrition, as well as discrimination against women and children.  The text, therefore, urged the Government to end these violations by implementing relevant human rights mechanisms and to engage in cooperation with the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as in the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review.  It was also called on to resolve questions of international concern related to the abductions in a transparent manner, including the immediate return of abductees.


She said the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been regularly informed of progress on the draft, but it had refused to engage in that process.  The General Assembly must not stand silent over the plight of the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  By voting in favour of the draft, should a vote be called, the General Assembly would give voice to the people of that country.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that, since the resolution concerned his country directly, in the past he had delivered a statement on it immediately after its introduction.  He had done so since 2005 up until the year before last.  However, last year, he had been refused the right to make such a statement, and so asked if that position had changed since then. 


In response, the Chair informed him that he could speak in exercise of the right to reply at the end of the meeting.


The representative of Sweden then introduced a draft on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/C.3/64/L.36*), speaking on behalf of the European Union and other co-sponsors.  She said a number of resolutions had been adopted in the last few years regarding Myanmar’s human rights situation, reflecting international concern over the issue.  The Secretary-General followed the situation closely through his Special Adviser, Mr. Gambari, whose mandate was derived from the resolution.  At the same time, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar was mandated by the Human Rights Council to visit and report on developments in the country.  The current resolution was based on reports by both the Special Adviser and Special Rapporteur. 


She welcomed positive steps taken by the Government, including its invitation to the Rapporteur to conduct follow-up visits in November.  However, the situation still remained of concern.  As next year’s elections come closer, there were still many prisoners of conscience in captivity, including Aung San Suu Kyi.  The fundamental freedoms of Myanmar’s people, including their right to assembly and expression, were severely restricted.  An atmosphere of impunity still abounded.  The draft reflected that situation and urged progress.  It called on the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with the international community at what was a “crucial time” for the country.


The format of this year’s text was different, she said, resulting in a slightly shorter text compared to that of last year.  The authors had conducted bilateral consultations with the Government of Myanmar on the text, with more to follow.  She appreciated the discussions being conducted with that country, and expressed hoped that they could be maintained during the remainder of the consultation process.  The authors had taken a consensus approach to the text, and looked forward to receiving input from interested parties.


Finally, the representative of Canada introduced a draft on the situation of human rights in Iran (document A/C.3/64/L.37).  He said a year had passed since the adoption of similar resolution, through which the General Assembly had voiced grave concerns over the situation in that country.  It had called for a report from Secretary-General, which was issued on 14 October.  While the report had noted some positive developments, it had highlighted many areas of continuing concern.  It noted negative developments since June 2008 in the area of civil and political rights.  Among those, the report noted occurrences of torture, degrading treatment like flogging and amputations, juvenile executions, stoning, and human rights abuses against minorities.  The report noted that, since the June elections, many had been killed and injured during demonstrations, and there had been cases of arbitrary detention, limits to the freedom of expression, reports of torture, and the use of harsh interrogations to obtain confessions.  In light of such developments, and bearing in mind that concerns of past resolutions were unaddressed and that the situation of human rights had seemed to deteriorate, 42 co-sponsors had decided to table the resolution.  It was carefully drafted to ensure accuracy and to reflect the Secretary-General’s findings. 


He observed that Members of United Nations had pledged to observe all human rights and freedom and, as such, it had a collective responsibility to call attention to serious violations.  Last year, it had called on Iran to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms.  But, as the Secretary-General noted, Iran had not done that -- no special procedure had been able to visit in the last four years.  The international community had always been prepared to engage in dialogue and cooperation, but Iran had shown no indication that it was prepared to do so.  The Iranian Government contended that promoting cooperation was better than tabling a resolution; that statement would be more credible if Iran were to cooperate. 


He said that, as the only United Nations body with universal membership responsible for addressing human rights issues, the Third Committee must live up to its responsibilities.  Having requested a Secretary-General’s report, it must now consider it and take action.  If not, the Committee would bring into question its credibility in exercising its jurisdiction.  He hoped others would join to give the report the consideration it merited, and to provide the people of Iran with a voice where they had been denied one.


The representative of Iran asked if he could exercise his right of reply to Canada, at which the Chair informed him that he could do so at the end of the meeting.  The representative of Iran observed that the Chair was preparing to close the item and once again asked if he could speak, stressing the importance of being able to exercise his right of reply at that moment.  The Chair reiterated the fact that the representative could only exercise his right of reply at the end of the meeting.


Action on draft texts


The Committee took up the draft on inclusion of persons with disabilities in realizing the Millennium Development Goals (document A/C.3/64/L.5/Rev.1), introduced by the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania.


By its terms, the Assembly would call on Governments to include disability issues and persons with disabilities in reviewing progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to step up efforts to include in their assessment the extent to which persons with disabilities are able to benefit from efforts to achieve the Goals.


That same text would have the Assembly call on Governments to build a knowledge base of data and information about the situation of persons with disabilities that could be used to enable development policy planning, monitoring, evaluation and implementation to be disability-sensitive.  In that regard, the Secretary-General would be requested to disseminate widely and promote the use of the Guidelines and Principles for the Development of Disability Statistics and the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses. Member States would be encouraged to use the statistics, to the extent possible, to integrate a disability perspective in reviewing their progress towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft text.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/C.3/64/L.19), which was introduced by the representative of Mongolia, who made several oral revisions to the text.


The text -- which recognizes the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty –- urges Member States to continue their efforts to implement the outcome of, and ensure an integrated and coordinated follow-up to, the United Nations conferences and summits.


Member States are further urged to attach greater importance to the improvement of the situation of rural women, including indigenous women, in their national, regional and global development strategies.  Among other things, they should pursue the political and socio-economic empowerment of rural women and support their full and equal participation in decision-making at all levels; promote consultation with and participation of rural women, including indigenous women and women with disabilities; invest in and strengthen efforts to meet the basic needs of rural women through improved availability, access to and use of critical rural infrastructure; and strengthen measures to accelerate progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goal 5 on improving maternal health.


The text further urges Member States to take steps towards ensuring that women’s unpaid work and contributions to on-farm and off-farm production, including income generated in the informal sector, are recognized; design and revise laws to ensure that rural women are accorded full and equal rights to own land and lease land and other property; and support a gender-sensitive education system. Member States, United Nations entities and all other relevant stakeholders are strongly encouraged to take measures to identify and address any negative impact of the current global crises on women in rural areas, including legislation, policies and programmes that strengthen gender equality and the empowerment of women.


Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved the draft text.


Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/64/L.23/Rev.1), introduced by the representative of Denmark .


That draft would have the Assembly condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through intimidation, saying it was and should remain prohibited at any time and place and could never be justified.  It would further condemn any action or attempt by States or public officials to legalize, authorize or acquiesce in torture and other inhuman treatment under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security or through judicial decisions. 


By other terms, the Assembly would stress that wherever there was reasonable ground to believe that torture and other inhuman treatment had been committed, those who encouraged, ordered, tolerated or perpetrated such acts must be held responsible, brought to justice, and punished in a manner commensurate with the severity of the offence, including officials in charge of the place of detention where the act was committed.


The text would have the Assembly emphasize that acts of torture in armed conflict are serious violations of international humanitarian law and in this regard constitute war crimes, and could constitute crimes against humanity.


Also by the text, the Assembly would call on all States to implement effective measures to prevent torture and other inhuman treatment, particularly in places of detention.  It would strongly urge States to ensure that no statement made as a result of torture was invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except as evidence against a person accused of torture.  States would be called on to consider extending that prohibition to statements made as a result of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


By further terms, States would be urged not to expel, return (“refouler”), extradite or transfer a person to another State where there were substantial grounds for believing that he or she was in danger of being tortured.  It would recognize that diplomatic assurances, where used, did not release States from their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, in particular the principle of non-refoulement.


The draft would have the Assembly call on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue providing, at States’ request, advisory services for the prevention of torture and other inhuman treatment, including for the preparation of national reports and for the establishment and operation of national preventive mechanisms, as well as technical assistance for the development, production and distribution of teaching material for this purpose.


Taking note of the interim report of the Special Rapporteur, the text would have the Assembly encourage the Rapporteur to continue making proposals on the prevention and investigation of torture and other inhuman treatment, including its gender-based manifestations.  States would be called on to cooperate with and assist the Rapporteur in his work, and to supply all necessary information requested by him, to respond fully and speedily to his appeals, to give serious consideration to responding favourably to requests for country visits, and to enter into a constructive dialogue with the Rapporteur with respect to visits and follow-up recommendations.


In the draft, the Assembly would recognizes the global need for international assistance to victims of torture, and stress the importance of the work of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.  It would appeal to all States and organizations to contribute annually to the Fund, as well as encourage contributions to the Special Fund established to help finance the implementation of the recommendations made by the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.  It would request the Secretary-General to include those Funds at the Pledging Conference for Development Activities, and request him to submit to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly a report on the operations of the Funds.


It would request the Secretary-General to ensure the provision of adequate staff and facilities for the bodies and mechanisms involved in preventing and combating torture, and assisting victims, in particular the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.


In her introduction of the text, the representative of Denmark explained that a paragraph on corporal punishment had been deleted.


Also, the Secretary of the Committee, MONCEF KHANE, informed the Committee that no programme budget implications would arise from the resolution if it were to be adopted.  But in saying so, he drew attention to various General Assembly resolutions reaffirming the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) as the body rightfully entrusted with administrative and budgetary matters.  In those resolutions, the General Assembly had also reaffirmed the role of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in such matters.


The text was then approved without a vote.


Speaking after action, the representative of China said that as one of the first States parties to the Convention on the Prevention of Torture, her Government supported efforts against torture and appreciated having had the opportunity to participate in consultations on the text.  But, because the Special Rapporteur on torture had made unfounded allegations against States, China would disassociate itself from operative paragraph 29 of the resolution [by which the Assembly would take note of the interim report of the Special Rapporteur].  However, she understood that the purpose behind the resolution was to draw attention to the need to prevent torture and to urge United Nations organs to improve their work in that area. 


She said that during discussions on the text, China had proposed to add a line stressing the importance of having the Special Rapporteur abide by the code of conduct, and to carry out his work in accordance with his mandate.  The proposal had received support from various countries, and so she regretted that it had not been accepted as part of the final draft.  Also, operative paragraph 4 had stressed the importance of ensuring proper follow-up of recommendations by treaty bodies and mechanisms.  China understood that the provision would be carried out in the understanding that those bodies and mechanisms acted in line with the the aims of the Convention on the prevention of torture, and in line with their mandates, as based on the principles of objectivity and impartiality.  In addition, those recommendations should be implemented according to specific national conditions.  In cases where recommendations were made by treaty bodies that were politicized, China would not implement them.  It would continue to cooperate with those bodies on basis of equality and mutual respect.


The representative of Chile said her Government would have preferred to retain the reference on capital punishment, in consideration of its nature as one of the gravest forms of punishment inflicted on people.


The representative of Syria said she was pleased to associate with the consensus and to lend her Government’s support to international efforts against torture.  She understood that States should abide by their commitments on torture and cruel punishment by virtue of article 2 of the Convention on the prevention of torture, which called on States to take legislative, administrative and judicial measures to prevent torture in any region subject to its jurisdiction.  War, the threat of war, political instability or any other emergency could not be used as a pretext for conducting torture.


The representative of South Africa said, while he had joined the consensus, he would have preferred deeper treatment of the contemporary manifestations of torture and inhuman treatment.  That included addressing the closure of the facilities at Guantanamo, accountability of people responsible for torture, and outlining just remedies as described in the rights of remedies for victims.  But, his Government would continue to engage with the main sponsor bilaterally, as they had agreed.


Following action on that text, the Chair informed the Committee that due to time constraints, the fourth draft resolution, on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/C.3/64/L.24), would be taken up on Thursday.


Rights of Reply


Speaking in exercise of the right of rely, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his delegation categorically rejected draft resolution L.35, which was introduced by Sweden and was full of fabrications.  The resolution was nothing more than the product of a political conspiracy by hostile forces.  The Korean peninsula had, with the deployment of forces there since World War II, become a showcase for the confrontation between the East and West during the cold war.  It remained a showcase of confrontation between the North and the South since the Cold War’s end.


He said the human rights situation that they -- the co-sponsors -- talked of in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was in name only. They were not concerned with the human rights situation in the country, but with their political considerations.  Yet, they were gravely mistaken.  Denial could not harm the Korean style of socialism, as it was chosen by the people.  Even though these sorts of resolutions were continuously tabled, this style of Government would remain invincible.


Also taking the floor to exercise the right of reply, the representative of Iran said that again this year Canada had introduced a draft resolution full of misleading information.  The Canadian delegate said the General Assembly had expressed grave concern over the human rights situation in Iran, but the pattern of co-sponsorship did not bear this out, since it was mainly the delegations of the European Union.  Further, in light of the voting pattern for this resolution, there were some countries that, when talked to, did not even know what was in the resolution or in which continent Iran was located. Canada had used “various means” to encourage some delegations to vote in favour of this resolution. Moreover, they were using, as always, a double standard regarding human rights concerns. Needless to say, this resolution was a politically motivated exercise. He would not go into the draft’s content, but suffice it to say the resolution did not correspond to the situation in Iran.


He went to say that the exaggerated claims included in the resolution would be responded to in due time.  But, the draft lacked credibility in both substance and procedure and was, thus, totally rejected by his delegation.  If Canada was concerned with human rights, it should first correct its own human rights record. He noted, in this regard, several incidents cited in international reports on discrimination against indigenous peoples and women in Canada.  This was a manifest indication of the abuse of human rights mechanisms within the United Nations system.


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