Reporting on Human Rights in War-Torn Syria ‘Counterproductive’, Third Committee Hears, Approving, by Recorded Vote, Texts on Country Situation Findings

GA/SHC/4157
19 November 2015
Seventieth Session, 50th & 51st Meetings (AM & PM)

Reporting on Human Rights in War-Torn Syria ‘Counterproductive’, Third Committee Hears, Approving, by Recorded Vote, Texts on Country Situation Findings

Confrontation and politically motivated country-specific resolutions undermined the dialogue and cooperation between States and hampered the improvement of human rights, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it took action on a package of draft resolutions ranging from situation reports of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria to the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

During the day-long meeting, delegates voiced their positions on the texts containing special rapporteurs’ human rights situation reports, with some speakers calling such country-specific politicized resolutions “counter-productive”, as highlighted by the Russian Federation’s delegate.  Other agreed, adding that such texts were inappropriate at a time when more pressing issues, such as terrorist attacks and the long-standing conflict in Syria, required a united approach.

Such issues arose when the Committee approved, by a recorded vote of 115 in favour, 15 against and 51 abstentions, a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic.  The General Assembly would, by that text, strongly condemn all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed against the civilian population, in particular all indiscriminate attacks, including the use of barrel bombs in civilian areas and against civilian infrastructure.

Further, the text would have the world body deplore and condemn in the strongest terms the continued armed violence by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias against its own people, as well as human rights abuses by armed extremists and anti-government groups, including the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham(ISIL/ISIS) and Al-Nusrah Front.  Among other actions, the Assembly, by the text, would strongly condemn the intervention in the Syrian Arab Republic of all foreign terrorist fighters and those foreign organizations and foreign forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime, particularly the Al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and militia groups, such as Hizbullah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and Liwa’ Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas.

Defining the draft resolution as a manifestation of intolerance against the Syrian people, that country’s representative underlined that the use of false information and attempts to advance political agendas was driving the Third Committee away from its main objective.  The universal periodic review was the right mechanism to deal with human rights, he said, noting that it respected the national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Continuing, he said foreign interference was fuelling to conflict, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s support of terrorist groups operating within Syria’s borders.  For its part, Syria was committed to continue fighting terrorism, he said, emphasizing that two years ago, the Government had tried to share with the French authorities the names of French citizens that were fighting in Syria.  Unfortunately, the French authorities had refused to cooperate, he said.

Indeed, Algeria’s speaker said that recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, Turkey and Nigeria were a strong reminder of the need to regroup and to direct forces against terrorism, he said, underlining that any steps to end the tragedy in Syria, including confidence-building measures, had to be encouraged.

Summing up a view heard throughout the discussion, he said his delegation had voted against the draft in part because it was untimely and unproductive to bring country-specific issues before the General Assembly.  Doing so would run counter to the spirit and goals of the Human Rights Council and the current international situation.

Other speakers also explained their delegations’ vote against the draft, with Cuba’s delegate saying the text would have a punitive impact that did not take into account the interests of the Syrian people and that politically motivated and selective exercises only delayed the realization of solutions to the challenges being faced by the authorities and people of Syria.

Expressing a similar view, the representative of Belarus said the text was putting pressure on one party in a bloody conflict that had been unfolding for several years.  Only a resolution to the conflict would contribute to upholding human rights in Syria, he said.

Expressing deep concern over the ever-worsening situation of human rights in Syria, the representative of Switzerland, also speaking on behalf of Iceland and Liechtenstein, underlined the central role of the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council in working towards an amelioration of that situation.  Noting with concern that the annual resolution was losing a clear focus on human rights issues, he said that although political aspects played an important role, they should not take centre stage in a situation where systematic attacks against civilians continued unabated and a culture of impunity was pervasive.

Cautioning against the danger that such an approach, born out of a frustration with the Security Council’s inability to make progress in the political track, would weaken the human rights message sent to the conflict parties, he said it was important that in the future, the language on accountability be strengthened.

A similar discussion followed the Committee’s approval, by a recorded vote of 112 in favour to 19 against, with 50 abstentions, of a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would condemn the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in that country.  It would also have the world body express very deep concern at the precarious humanitarian situation in the country and urge the Government to ensure full, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian aid.  The text would also have the Assembly consider referring the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court.

Rejecting those claims as well as the draft resolution and all country-specific texts, the delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the draft was a product of political and military confrontation and had no relevance whatsoever with regard to the genuine promotion and protection of human rights.  The sponsors of that text needed to take punitive measures to address crimes against humanity, such as those committed in Afghanistan and Iraq, racial discrimination in the United States, and Islamophobia and the refugee crisis in Western Europe.

Joining many delegations that voiced their positions against the text, Myanmar’s delegate defined the universal periodic review process as the most dependable and uncontroversial mechanism to address human rights situations around the world.  Representing a view held by a number of countries and the European Union, Japan’s representative said the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had continued to be critical.  The text represented an important opportunity for the international community to send a message to that country, he said, referring to the abduction of foreign nationals of various nationalities.

When the Committee approved, by a recorded vote of 76 in favour, 35 against, with 68 abstentions, a draft text on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a number of speakers questioned the necessity of such a resolution.

Iran’s representative said the draft resolution represented a significant setback for United Nations human rights mechanism and came at a time when Iran’s policy of constructive engagement had resulted in a nuclear deal.  Also, he found it alarming that many terrorist recruits had been born and raised in countries that were co-sponsoring the text before the Committee.

Indeed, some speakers said given recent developments and the nuclear programme agreement, such a text on Iran would not be necessary in future Committee sessions.  Ecuador’s representative said country-specific resolutions, in general, undermined the principles of cooperation and objectivity among Member States.

Canada’s representative, who had co-sponsored the draft, said resolutions such as the one under consideration reflected the concern of the international community to address pressing human rights issues in Iran.  While recognizing that country’s recent commitments to the improvement of women’s rights, nothing had been done so far, he regretted to say, adding that concerns remained about the alarming increase in the use of the death penalty, the continued use of torture and the absence of guarantees of due process.

The Committee also took action on a draft resolution on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, approving it by a vote of 126 in favour, to 4 against (Canada, Palau, Ukraine, United States) with 53 abstentions.  It also approved, by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 11 against, with 44 abstentions, a draft text on a global call for concrete action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the girl child and heard the introduction of draft text on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights.

Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt, Botswana, Netherlands, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Ukraine, Luxembourg, Armenia, China, Cyprus, South Africa, Israel, Morocco, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Singapore, Viet Nam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, El Salvador, Norway, Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Greece, Hungary and Saudi Arabia, as well as Switzerland (on behalf of the European Union).

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 20 November, to take action on a number of draft resolutions.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

Under the Committee’s agenda item relating to human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the representative of Egypt introduced a draft resolution on “Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights” (document A/C.3/70/L.43).

By that text, the General Assembly would affirm that the international community should strive to respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by globalization in a manner that promotes and protects human rights while ensuring respect for the cultural diversity of all.  It would therefore underline the need to continue to analyse the consequences of globalization for the full enjoyment of all human rights.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee then took up the draft resolution on “The girl child” (document A/C.3/70/L.29/Rev.1), which would have the Assembly strongly call upon States and the international community to create an environment ensuring the well-being of girls.

The representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, thanked Member States for their active and constructive engagement during negotiations.  He said the fruitful consultations had been extremely useful in strengthening the resolution which addressed issues pertinent to the region.

The text was approved without a vote.

Speaking after its approval, the representative of the Netherlands appreciated the consensus on the draft text.  However, he said, much more needed to be done to achieve gender equality between girls and boys, and to eliminate early and forced marriage and all forms of violence against girls.

Australia’s speaker said it was vital to ensure the representation of girls and their organizations in discussions concerning them.  She then called upon Member States to designate “girl leadership” as the theme of the next resolution on the issue.

The delegate from Trinidad and Tobago thanked Member States for their efforts, and reaffirmed her delegation’s commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of girls.

The representative of the United States said his country strongly supported the advancement of children regardless of gender.  His delegation looked forward to engaging in partnerships on the issue.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (document A/C.3/70/L.59/Rev.1).

That draft text would have the General Assembly express deep concern about the glorification of the Nazi movement and condemn without reservation any denial of the Holocaust.  Further to the text, the world body would underline that the roots of extremism were multifaceted and must be addressed through adequate measures such as education, awareness-raising and the promotion of dialogue.  The resolution would also have the Assembly express deep concern about the increased number of seats occupied by representatives of extremist parties of a racist or xenophobic character in a number of national and local parliaments and emphasize in that regard the need for all democratic political parties to base their programmes and activities on respect for human rights and freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

Speaking before the vote, the delegate of the Russian Federation said the Committee was taking up the text on the eve of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Nuremberg tribunal and on the seventieth anniversary of the defeat of Nazism and the creation of the United Nations.  Modern forms of racism were a cause of grave concern.  In some European countries, including those that had been occupied, a true war was being waged against the memory of those who had fought against Nazism.  It was not a matter of political correctness, but of attempting to falsify history.  The text, he said, would make a significant contribution to the fight against racism.

In an explanation of vote prior to the vote, the representative of Belarus called Nazism a totalitarian ideology with terroristic methods whose crimes had been rightly condemned at Nuremberg.  Today, extremist movements and groups had continued to promote the heinous crimes of Nazism.  It was a matter of concern that, at times, some Governments had permitted such ideas by citing freedom of speech.  Such an evil had to be combated.

In a general statement prior to the vote, the Russian Federation asked for clarification on which delegation had requested a recorded vote.

The Chair said it had been requested by the United States.

The representative of Syria said the draft addressed a very important issue that was related to intolerance and racism.  Combating Nazism was an important step in the fight against terrorism.  As such, he said his delegation would vote in favour.

The delegate of the United States said her country condemned Nazism and all forms of racism.  It was an active partner in promoting remembrance of the Holocaust.  However, because of the draft’s overall narrow scope and politicized nature and because it called for limits on freedom of expression, the text was unacceptable to her delegation.  She expressed concern that the Russian Federation had used the resolution to carry out a political attack against its neighbours.  The United States would vote no and called upon others to do so.

The Committee approved the text by a vote of 126 in favour, to 4 against (Canada, Palau, Ukraine, United States) with 53 abstentions.  Explaining his vote, the delegate from Ukraine said his country had been among those that had suffered the most during the Second World War, but the text had nothing in common with the fight against Nazism, neo-Nazism and other forms of intolerance.  For years the Russian Federation had warned of a resurgence of fascism in Europe, but recently a conservative forum had taken place in one of its cities that brought together neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists, among others.  The text had been a cynical attempt by the Russian Federation to present itself as a champion of the struggle against neo-Nazism.

The representative of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union, said efforts by the main sponsor to hold informal consultations in an open, inclusive and transparent manner were appreciated.  However, a number of important concerns still remained and several essential proposals put forward by the Union had not been included in the text, which emphasized issues far from being related to combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and did not address all contemporary forms of racism in a comprehensive way.  Focusing the fight against racism around the teaching of history, monuments, memorials or erroneous references to national liberation movements fell outside the scope of the human rights agenda and aimed to monopolize the fight against Nazism with a one-sided view of history.  Language in the text also addressed too restrictively the fundamental right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  The European Union had abstained from the vote.

The representative of Switzerland, also on behalf of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, said that some very important elements were contained in the text, but it was regretted that changes that would have broadened its scope had not sufficiently been taken on board.  The timeliness of such a resolution was questioned, as many forms of racial discrimination and xenophobia did not have roots in Nazi ideology.  Paragraphs de facto restricting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression were cause for concern.  For those reasons, the four countries had abstained.

Making a general statement, the representative of Armenia, on behalf of the member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said the text had the full support of his State.  Combating the ideology of hatred, no matter its name, was a common issue that required common efforts on the part of the global community.  Targeted attempts to rewrite or slant history were strongly condemned.

The representative of China, which voted in favour, thanked the Russian Federation for its “enormous efforts” with regard to the text.  The Second World War had been a victory of good over evil and light over dark.  To forget history would be an act of betrayal and the international community had to remain highly vigilant.

The delegate of Cyprus, expressing deep alarm at manifestations of neo-Nazism, said the text could have been further improved upon.  The delegate of Greece underlined reservations about certain elements that fell outside the human rights agenda and focused on political issues targeting countries. 

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on “A global call for concrete action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” (document A/C.3/70/L.61).

That resolution would have the General Assembly reaffirm the paramount importance of universal adherence to and the full and effective implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and invite the Human Rights Council to continue to elaborate complementary standards in order to fill existing gaps in the Convention, in the form of new normative standards aimed at combating all forms of contemporary and resurgent racism.  The text would also have the Assembly strongly appeal to all Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals, as well as other donors in a position to do so to contribute generously to the Trust Fund for the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.  It would also have the world body call upon the Human Rights Council to commence preparations for the commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. 

The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the draft resolution had been presented for wide informal consultations with partners and agreed upon accordingly.  Introducing oral revisions to the text, he said that operative paragraph 20 would be deleted as a result of the amendment in operative paragraph 21, which called upon the Human Rights Council to commence preparations for the commemoration of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action anniversary.

Making a general statement in connection with the draft text, Israel’s representative said that throughout the history, Jewish people had fought against all forms of racism and xenophobia and had promoted tolerance.  However, the Durban Review Conference in 2009 had disproportionately focused on Israel while contemporary forms of racism had remained unaddressed.

In explanation of vote before the action, the speaker from the European Union expressed full commitment to the total elimination of all forms of discrimination and intolerance.  The text before the Committee contained technical updates, but the concerns expressed previously by the Member States had persisted.  Further, the draft focused too much on processes, mechanisms, meetings, commemorations and reporting.  She reiterated her delegation’s call on the main sponsors to produce a text focusing more on core messages and concrete actions that would be able to unite countries on the fight against that global scourge.

The representative of the United States said her country was deeply committed to the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Expressing concerns about hate speech that promoted hostility and racism, she noted that such acts would be best addressed through proactive approaches taken by Governments.  Unfortunately, her delegation could not support the text as it did not provide a constructive way forward.

Taking action, the Committee then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 11 against, with 44 abstentions.

In explanation of vote after the vote, the delegate from Switzerland, speaking also for Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway, regretted to say that no genuine consultations had been held to consider other delegations’ views on the issue.  The fight against racism was the primary responsibility of States, and they must take effective domestic measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination.  The draft text had led to follow-up activities at the international level that did not contribute effectively to combat all forms of racism.  To that end, the group had abstained from voting on the text.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” (document A/C.3/70/L.44).

 

The draft would have the General Assembly welcome the fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention and decide to devote, within existing resources, one high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly at its seventy-first session to the commemoration of that anniversary.

The representative of Morocco, speaking also for Argentina and France, thanked all States for their contributions.  The text recognized the importance of the Convention.  The ratification and the implementation of that Convention would be a significant contribution to ending impunity and to promoting and protecting all human rights for all, he stressed.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated the group’s rejection of country-specific texts.  The universal periodic review was the main intergovernmental mechanism for addressing human rights.  As such, all States should vote against politically motivated texts.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (document A/C.3/70/L.35).

The draft text would have the General Assembly condemn the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in that country, including those that the Commission of Inquiry, established by the Human Rights Council, had said may amount to crimes against humanity.  The text would also have the Assembly express very deep concern at the precarious humanitarian situation in the country and urge the Government to ensure full, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian aid.  It would encourage the Security Council to continue to discuss the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including its human rights record, to consider referring the situation in that country to the International Criminal Court and to consider the scope for targeted sanctions against individuals who may appear to be most responsible for possible crimes against humanity.

Further, the General Assembly, by the text, would strongly urge the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to immediately put an end to the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights, to immediately close political prison camps, to release all political prisoners unconditionally and without any delay, to protect its inhabitants and address the issue of impunity and to engage in technical cooperation activities in the field of human rights with United Nations agencies.

The representative of Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union and Japan, made a number of oral revisions to the text, referring to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry last year, which had ensured that the issue was “firmly anchored” in the international agenda and was a regular topic before the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and, hopefully, the Security Council.  Dismay at the failure of the authorities in that country to bring justice to victims of human rights violations was expressed in the text, which ultimately encouraged the Security Council to take appropriate action, including consideration of a referral to the International Criminal Court.  The co-sponsors recognized positive steps taken by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including family reunions.  It was regrettable that its Government had continuously refused to cooperate with any special procedures or human rights mechanisms.  It was not credible to say that horrifying testimonies of human rights violations in that country had all been fabricated.  The international community could not be indifferent to the suffering of the victims; it had to act.

The representative of Nicaragua, in a general statement, expressed deep concern over country-specific resolutions.  Such texts lent themselves to politicization.  Similar resolutions had not been made with regard to developed countries.  A connection between extreme poverty and human rights was noted.

The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the text was “a product of political and military confrontation” on the part of the United States and other hostile forces and had no relevance whatsoever with regard to the genuine promotion and protection of human rights.  The text contained distortions and fabrications, including sheer lies made by so-called defectors.  The people of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took immense pride in its socialist system, which had provided such superior measures for the popular masses as free medical care, education and housing and equality between men and women.  While his country was interested in dialogue and cooperation, it would strongly counter-attack any attempts at confrontation and pressure aimed at eliminating its state and social systems.  The leading sponsors had to frankly address gross human rights violations in their own countries and the United Nations should urgently take punitive measures against such crimes against humanity as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, racial discrimination in the United States, xenophobia, Islamophobia and the refugee crisis in western European and past crimes against humanity committed by Japan.  His delegation requested a recorded vote and would vote against the text.

The delegate of Japan said the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had continued to be critical.  The text was once again based on the Commission of Inquiry’s findings in February 2014 that had provided guiding principles for the international community to respond to the situation in that country.  The Commission had encouraged the Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability and, in that regard, the Council had discussed the matter in December for the first time in an official meeting.  The abduction of foreign nationals of various nationalities, including those from Japan, was recalled in the text, which represented an important opportunity for the international community to send a message to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and for that country to respond in good faith.

The representative of Nigeria, noting that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had participated in the first and second cycles of the universal periodic review, said that mechanism at the Human Rights Council was sufficient and that country-specific resolutions before the Third Committee were unnecessary. 

The speaker from Syria expressed regret that the Committee was being used in a way that was counter to the efforts of the Human Rights Council.  As such, it would vote against the draft.

In explanation of vote prior to the action, the delegate from Iran said the adoption of country-specific resolutions in the Third Committee was an exploitation of the Committee and a breach of the United Nations Charter that undermined cooperation as the core principle for the promotion and protection of human rights.  The universal periodic review provided a mechanism for reviewing human rights situations in all countries on an equal basis.  Based on that perspective, Iran would vote against the draft.

Egypt’s speaker said his country was committed to the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, rejecting politicization, double standards and the use of human rights platforms in a selective manner.  As such, Egypt would vote against the text.

The delegate from Cuba said her delegation would also vote against the draft, as it could not support a text that sought the involvement of the Security Council in situations that did not undermine international peace and security.  Dialogue should take the place of politicization.

The representative of Bolivia said his delegation rejected texts that selectively targeted countries.  He supported the universal periodic review and, in that regard, his country would vote against the draft.

The speaker from Belarus said country-specific resolutions were not in line with the principles and Charter of the United Nations.  The text was a clear attempt to bring before a main body of the United Nations an issue on the basis of selectivity.  Belarus would vote against a resolution that would directly affect the entire United Nations system.

The Committee then approved the draft text by a recorded vote of 112 in favour to 19 against, with 50 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Venezuela said his country did not support politically motivated resolutions, as they violated the United Nations Charter.  The practice of adopting such resolutions ignored the principle of impartiality and undermined the mandate of the Human Rights Council, he stressed.

Ecuador’s delegate reaffirmed his country’s support for the universal periodic review mechanism to address human rights questions all around the world.  He then noted that country-specific resolutions undermined the construction of positive relations between countries.

The speaker from Brazil welcomed the signs of cooperation by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and hoped that the country would make further progress towards the enjoyment of human rights.  The Human Rights Council and the General Assembly should be better equipped to address human rights issues, he underlined.

China’s representative, opposing the adoption of country-specific resolutions, said that human rights issues should be addressed in an equal and fair manner, without politicization.

The delegate of Russian Federation said country-specific resolutions were against the principles of non-politicization and respect for national sovereignty.  To that end, her delegation had voted against the text.

Singapore’s speaker, describing country-specific resolutions as “naming and shaming”, said the Human Rights Council and the universal periodic review should be the main platform and mechanism to address human rights concerns.

The representative of Viet Nam shared the international community’s concerns about the abduction of persons from foreign countries.  Concerned parties must work together to reach a proper solution, he said.  However, country-specific resolutions were counterproductive, and his delegation had voted against the text.

The delegate from Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that country-specific resolutions were not the correct method for advancing human rights.  Instead, human rights questions and concerns should be addressed through the universal periodic review.

El Salvador’s speaker noted that her country was not a State party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court but was considering ratifying it.

Myanmar’s delegate opposed country-specific resolutions as they created confrontation rather than cooperation.  The universal periodic review process was the most dependable and uncontroversial mechanism to address human rights situations around the world.  In line with that principled position, Myanmar had voted against the resolution.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s representative said that his delegation categorically rejected all politically motivated country-specific resolutions.  Thanking delegations for their support, he said that his country would continue to safeguard its social system by all means.

Norway’s delegate supported the current resolution as his country was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  He reiterated the call upon the country to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.

The speaker from Australia, drawing attention to the alleged human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the evidence of public executions and enforced disappearances had been gathered through victims’ testimonies.  Also, she welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur and urged the Government to secure unrestricted access to humanitarian aid throughout the country.

Next, the Committee took up a text on the “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (document A/C.3/70/L.45).

By that text, the General Assembly would welcome the pledges and recent announcements made by the President of Iran with regard to human rights issues, particularly on eliminating discrimination against women and members of ethnic minorities, and on greater space for freedom of expression and opinion.  The text would have the Assembly express serious concern at the alarmingly high frequency of and increase in the carrying out of the death penalty, in disregard of internationally recognized safeguards, including executions undertaken without notification to the prisoner’s family members or legal counsel, and with regard to using the practice against minors and persons who at the time of their offence were under age 18.

Further, the General Assembly, by the text, would strongly urge the Iranian Government to eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination and other human rights violations against women and girls, as well as to ensure credible, transparent and inclusive parliamentary elections in 2016.

The representative of Canada said in a general comment that resolutions such as the one under consideration reflected the concern of the international community to address pressing human rights issues.  The draft addressed widespread human rights violations in Iran.  While recognizing that country’s recent commitments to the improvement of women’s rights, nothing had been done so far, he regretted to say.  The draft resolution deplored the alarming increase in the use of the death penalty, including against juvenile offenders, the continued use of torture, the absence of guarantees of due process, unfair restrictions to freedoms of expression, association and religion, and violence against women and girls.  The draft text also underlined the importance of ending those restrictions in the context of the forthcoming elections.  The lack of cooperation of Iran with United Nations human rights mechanisms was also a matter of concern.  It was, in light of those concerns, increasingly urgent for the General Assembly to address human rights in Iran. 

The representative of Iran said the text represented a significant setback for United Nations human rights mechanism.  Its tabling came at a time when Iran’s policy of constructive engagement had resulted in a nuclear deal.  The entire world had welcomed that development, but Canada had continued with its unreasonable hostile policy against Iran.  The draft text was grounded on nothing but speculation and hearsay.  Such a short-sighted approach ignored the real threats to fundamental human rights posed by violent extremists and misled the international community regarding human rights truths in the Iran’s region.  He cautioned Member States to avoid falling into that trap.

It was highly alarming and indicative that many terrorist recruits had been born and raised in countries that were co-sponsoring the draft resolution, he continued.  He hoped the new Government of Canada, based on pledges made during the election campaign, would engage constructively on human rights and depart from a futile path that had been travelled over the last 13 years and which had sapped the energy needed to stand up to current world challenges.  The Government of Iran had, since assuming office, advanced and implemented meaningful and substantive human rights measures, including the fulfilment of its universal periodic review obligations and the promotion of a citizens’ charter of rights in the legislature.  Iran was ready and willing to engage in a results-oriented dialogue on human rights based on good faith and mutual respect.  He hoped Member States would today open a new chapter in the equal consideration of all human rights situations by saying “no” to a counterproductive and unjust draft text.

Syria’s delegate said the tabling of the draft threatened the credibility of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, particularly in light of the fact that the universal periodic review was the agreed mechanism for addressing human rights issues.  Syria would vote against that draft, he said, as it violated principles of the United Nations Charter. 

Similarly, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reiterated his delegation’s principled position against country-specific resolutions and against politically-motivated attempts that resulted in violating the sovereignty of States and in interfering in their domestic affairs.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for those reasons, would vote against the draft.

The speaker from Nigeria expressed the view that although country-specific situations could be addressed by the United Nations in serious cases, the universal periodic review should remain the main mechanism to address human rights concerns.  Iran had been working closely with United Nations mechanisms, she said, welcoming assurances given by the Government of Iran regarding violations against women and ethnic and religious minorities and encouraging them to be translated into concrete actions on the ground.

Ecuador’s delegate reiterated his delegation’s commitment to the universal periodic review mechanism, which allowed human rights concerns to be addressed in a non-selective manner.  Country-specific resolutions undermined the principles of cooperation and objectivity and such practices must stop, he said.  Ecuador would therefore vote against the draft resolution.

The representatives of Costa Rica expressed concern about the human rights situation in Iran and would vote in favour of the draft under consideration.  She underlined that all issues that deserved the international community’s attention should be given consideration.  Stressing the importance of the universal periodic review process in addressing specific human rights concerns, she said the existence of such mechanisms should not prevent the General Assembly from discussing situations on a case-by-case basis.

In an explanation of vote before the vote, Cuba’s delegate said her delegation would vote against the draft resolution in line with its principled position against country-specific resolutions.  The draft under consideration was motivated by political agendas and attempted to destabilize the Iranian Government, rather than addressing genuine human rights concerns.  She underlined that cooperation and the exchange of good practices were the only ways to address human rights concerns.

The representative of Belarus said she would not support the draft as it was a politically-motivated, biased assessment of the situation in Iran.  The country-specific resolution undermined the United Nations human rights system.

The speaker from Bolivia said that the resolution undermined the principles of sovereignty, impartiality and non-selectivity.  She expressed concerns that such country-specific resolutions only targeted countries of the South.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 76 in favour, 35 against, with 68 abstentions. 

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the delegate from Brazil said his country had abstained from voting on a draft text that had failed to appropriately reflect the efforts of Iran in improving the human rights situation of its people.  His country was extremely concerned by the rate of executions in Iran and the rights of women, freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and association and the rights of minorities, including the Baha’i community.  International efforts to engage Iran would be better served by a more constructive tone.  In the wake of the nuclear agreement, the international community had a sound basis to renew its investment in diplomacy and dialogue.

The representative of Japan said his country had voted in favour of the draft resolution.  Welcoming the policy of the President of Iran to seriously address the human rights situation in the country, he hoped that concrete progress would be made and that the dialogue with the international community would be further strengthened alongside continued cooperation with United Nations bodies.  For its part, Japan would continue to engage in dialogue and cooperation with the Government of Iran.

The representative of Chile said his delegation had voted in favour of the text as his country valued the fact that, for the first time, Iran had agreed to meet in Geneva with the Special Rapporteur.  He hoped that the Special Rapporteur would be able to visit the country soon.  Chile was encouraged by efforts by the President of Iran to try to improve the human rights situation in his country.  The Government of Chile was against the use of capital punishment and supported a universal moratorium on the death penalty.  In the first six months of 2015, at least 520 people had been executed in Iran and it was not clear that those who had been executed had benefited from due process and impartiality.  Iran should also step up cooperation with human rights mechanisms and heed the recommendations of the universal periodic review process.  Chile would continue to analyse situation in Iran with impartiality with a view to re-evaluating its position in the future.

Venezuela’s speaker reiterated his country’s opposition to country-specific texts that were based on politicized motives, in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.  Venezuela supported the appeal of the Non-Aligned Movement on the issue and the consolidation of the work of the Human Rights Council and the universal periodic review process.  He urged the limitation of the approval of country-specific resolutions that, in reality, weakened human rights mechanisms.

China’s delegate said differences should be addressed through constructive dialogue.  His country was opposed to the politicization of human rights issues and putting pressure on specific countries.  For that reason, China had voted against the text.  It was incumbent on the international community to give Iran practical and constructive assistance.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he also voted against the draft.  It was surprising how insistent its authors had been in submitting it, year after year.  The Russian Federation was against the biased and politicized practice of introducing country-specific resolutions.  He hoped that, in the future, such resolutions would not be put before the Third Committee. 

The representative of Guatemala, which voted in favour of the text, shared the Special Rapporteur’s serious concern about the human rights situation in Iran.  Facts in the Secretary-General’s report were acknowledged, but it was regrettable that the draft had not highlighted timely issues, such as the historic nuclear agreement, despite proposals from various delegations.  While human rights were not specifically referred to in that agreement, the lifting of sanctions would have an impact on the economic, social and political rights of the people of Iran. 

Myanmar’s delegate said his country always stood against country-specific resolutions and its vote on that draft text reflected that principle position.  Such resolutions undermined one of the purposes of the United Nations Charter, namely to develop friendly relations between nations.  The time had come to put an end to such texts “in this august body”.

The speaker from Mexico said the reports of the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur had noted outstanding human rights challenges in Iran.  In the past year, however, there had been important developments that had opened up new opportunities.  While Mexico had abstained from the vote, its decision to do so did not imply a failure on its part to express concern about violations of human rights in Iran.

 

The delegate from the Republic of Korea, recognizing the progress made by the Government of Iran since the 2014 resolution, including its active participation in the second cycle of universal periodic review, said further progress still needed to be made.  His country looked forward to Iran making further progress in improving the human rights situation.

The representative of Greece said she did not fully share or agree with all of the elements in the resolution.  However, her delegation aligned itself with the general position of the European Union and had voted in favour of the draft.

The Third Committee then took up a draft resolution on the “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.3/70/L.47).

By that draft, the Committee would have the General Assembly strongly condemn all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed against the civilian population, in particular all indiscriminate attacks, including the use of barrel bombs in civilian areas and against civilian infrastructure.  Further, the text would have the world body deplore and condemn in the strongest terms the continued armed violence by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias against its own people, as well as human rights abuses by armed extremists and anti-government groups, including the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and Al-Nusrah Front.

The draft would also have the Assembly call on all foreign fighters to withdraw from the Syrian territory and highlight the importance of accountability for all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.  The draft text would also have the Assembly address the refugee crisis by urging the international community, including all donors, to provide urgent financial support to enable the host countries to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees, while emphasizing the principle of burden sharing.  Finally, the General Assembly would, by the text, reaffirm its commitment to international efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis through a Syrian-led political process leading to a political transition.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, also speaking on behalf the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, showed the Committee a photograph of a 3-year-old boy named Aylan, who summarized the subject of the draft resolution.  There were more than 250,000 deaths, 4 million refugees and 7.5 million displaced persons, with 5 million in besieged and hard-to-reach areas that needed humanitarian aid, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  Syria had become “an open yard for incoming foreign fighters”, some of whom had joined Da’esh.  Syria did not need more troops or bombardments.  Rather, it needed a leadership capable of reuniting its people, healing wounds and providing security, shelter, health care and food.  Such basic human rights had been denied to Aylan and his family, he said.

Continuing, he said some Member States might express reservations about country-specific resolutions, but the situation in Syria was unprecedented.  It was the only country in which its sons were being killed and displaced by the millions.  Rather than being country-specific, the draft was “situation-specific”.  It included an explicit condemnation of terrorism, terrorist organizations and foreign fighters and also noted United Nations reports that held the Syrian regime mainly responsible for acts of violence, murder and displacement.  The Syrian regime would seek to portray the issue as a bilateral dispute between Syria “and this or that country” and its delegate would try to steer discussions towards side issues regarding Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates or other co-sponsors.  But such an attempt would not displace the memory of the picture of Aylan.  The Committee was urged to shoulder its responsibilities by voting for that boy and for the Syrian people, he said.

The delegate from Syria, aligning with the Non-Aligned Movement’s principled position against country-specific resolutions, spoke to denounce the use of false information and attempts by some to exploit the Third Committee as a means to advance their political agenda.  Such practice was driving the Committee away from its main objective, which was reaching consensus on human rights issues.  He underlined the importance of the universal periodic review mechanism to address human rights issues.

The draft resolution tabled by Saudi Arabia was politicized, he said.  He then pointed at gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Saudi regime, including public beheadings, persecutions of minorities and its support of terrorist groups in Syria, which had led to the death of many innocents around the world.  Syria was committed to continue fighting terrorism that had been financed, supported and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  Those two States were fully responsible for terrorist attacks against the people of Syria.  Highlighting the irony of his counterparts from those States tabling that draft resolution, he pointed again at their human rights records.

Continuing, he said the draft was a manifestation of intolerance against the Syrian people.  Two years ago, the Government of Syria had tried to share with the French authorities the names of French citizens that were fighting in Syria.  Unfortunately, the French authorities had refused to cooperate with Syria.  In closing, he said that the draft resolution contained misleading quotations falsely attributed to the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria.

The representative of Iran said the decision to approve the draft resolution on Syria would have a major impact on the credibility of the United Nations human rights system.  In addition to being a politically motivated country-specific resolution, it contained dispositions that went beyond human rights issues and were contrary to the United Nations Charter.  It denied the right of a Member State to ensure peace on its territory and legitimized armies that were threatening a sovereign State.

The delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reiterated his delegation’s principled position against country-specific resolutions and stressed the need to address human rights issues through constructive dialogue and in the framework of the universal periodic review mechanism.

Nigeria’s delegate said although it was important for the General Assembly to remain vigilant of human rights situations worldwide, such efforts should be made within the Human Rights Council.  Country-specific resolutions should not be used to advance political agendas.  With regard to the situation in Syria, she called on all sides in the conflict to lay down their arms and respect the rights of the people.

The speaker from the United States expressed strong support for the draft resolution and called on all delegations to vote in favour of the text.  Accountability was required for mass killings, rape, torture, public executions, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, the use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons and other horrific acts.  Those targeted included women and children.  She expressed support for a political transition based on the Syria Communiqué and underlined the importance that the General Assembly addressed that important matter.

The representative of Turkey said the approval of the draft resolution would be a firm message that the international community remained on the side of the Syrian people and supported the call for accountability.  Turkey would continue to stand by the people of Syria.

The representative of Qatar, aligning with the statement of Saudi Arabia, said the situation in Syria was having repercussions in the region.  The question of human rights in Syria was tackled in the text in an objective and balanced manner.  Several issues were addressed in the draft, including women and children, refugees and foreign fighters.  Supporting the draft would send a clear message to the perpetrators of flagrant violations that the international community would not stand still.

Committee Chair OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said a recorded vote had been requested.

Making a general statement on the draft resolution, the speaker from Algeria said it was untimely and unproductive to bring country-specific issues before the General Assembly.  To do so was to go against the spirit and goals of the Human Rights Council and the current international situation.  Recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, Turkey and Nigeria were a strong reminder of the need to regroup and to direct forces against terrorism.  Any steps to end the tragedy in Syria, including confidence-building measures, had to be encouraged.  For those reasons, Algeria would vote against the draft text.

The delegate of Cuba said the text would have a punitive impact that did not take into account the interests of the Syrian people.  Emphasis should be put on actions that would truly contribute to putting an end to violence, massacres and terrorist acts.  Politically motivated and selective exercises only delayed the realization of solutions to the challenges being faced by the authorities and people of Syria.

The representative of Belarus rejected country-specific resolutions for the purpose of intervening in the domestic affairs of a country.  The text before the Committee was putting pressure on one party in a bloody conflict that had been unfolding for several years.  Only a resolution to the conflict would contribute to upholding human rights in Syria.  Country-specific resolutions pushed the Third Committee and the General Assembly in the direction of confrontation as a way of addressing human rights policy.  Belarus would vote against and it called upon other States to follow suit.

By a recorded vote of 115 in favour, 15 against and 51 abstentions, the Committee approved the text, “L.47”, as well as its related programme budget implications, contained in document A/C.3/70/L.67.

The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, said that the adoption of that resolution ran contrary to the principles of international law and served at supporting terrorism and extremism.  He said it was peculiar that countries of the West claiming to be champions of human rights had worked side by side with notorious human rights abusers in initiating that text.  The approval of that text would not make Iran stop its combat against terrorism. 

Brazil’s delegate, speaking after the vote, urged all parties to the conflict to put an end to violence and to fully comply with international humanitarian and human rights law.  Welcoming references to the humanitarian situation and to the needs of Syrian refugees, he called on all parties to ensure full and unhindered humanitarian access.  He remained concerned however at the unbalanced nature of the resolution, and its failure to fully address the responsibilities of some armed groups, including ISIL.  The United Nations had to remain impartial in condemning human rights abuses.

The speaker from Ecuador insisted on the importance of accountability for all perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, including for extremist groups.  He expressed his country’s solidarity with the Syrian people, but expressed concern that the resolution did not fully take into account the situation on the ground.  In light of that biased approach, Ecuador had voted against the text.

Venezuela’s delegate reiterated his delegation’s position against country-specific resolutions and mandates in the field of human rights.  He rejected the selectivity in which the situation in Syria was treated, which breached the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity.  He urged all States to give the universal periodic review its due place in addressing human rights issues. 

The representative of Libya said his delegation’s abstention did not mean that it had disassociated itself from the call to address the migration crisis. 

Argentina’s speaker urged all parties to the conflict to put an end to the conflict and cease violence.  He condemned atrocities by ISIL and called on all States to refrain from intervening in the conflict through financing and the provision of weapons and military equipment, which only fuelled the violence and empowered terrorist groups.  The only way out of the conflict was through a political dialogue. 

The delegate from China expressed his opposition to politicizing human rights issues and to country-specific resolutions.  For that reason, China had voted against the draft resolution, he said.  

The speaker from Switzerland, also on behalf of Iceland and Liechtenstein, expressed deep concern over the ever-worsening situation of human rights in Syria and underlined the central role of the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council in working towards an amelioration of that situation.  The General Assembly could however do better in addressing those concerns, he said, noting with concern that the annual resolution was losing a clear focus on human rights issues.  Although political aspects played an important role, they should not take centre stage in a situation where systematic attacks against civilians continued unabated and a culture of impunity was pervasive.  There was a danger that such an approach, born out of a frustration with the Security Council’s inability to make progress in the political track, would weaken the human rights message sent to the conflict parties.  It was important that in the future, the language on accountability be strengthened.

The speaker from the Russian Federation said that, in addition to her delegation’s opposition to politicized approaches to human rights issues, the text was counter-productive as it failed to properly address the abuses by armed groups.  For those reasons, the Russian Federation had voted against the resolutions. 

The representative of Greece said that her delegation had abstained from voting as it could not agree with the inclusion in the text of references to the Al-Quds Brigades and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Making a general statement, the delegate of Canada, referring to preambular paragraph 7, said it was important not to misinterpret the reference to chlorine gas.  It was the use of such gas, not whether it was used indiscriminately or not, that was a violation of international humanitarian law.

The delegate from Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed concern that the conflict in Syria and the suffering of the people there was showing no sign of abating.  The scale of the tragedy was the world’s largest humanitarian disaster with no parallel in recent history.  There was no military solution to the Syrian civil war, but rather an increasingly urgent need for a Syrian-led political process leading to a peaceful and inclusive transition.  There could not be a lasting peace in Syria under the current leadership and until the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all components of the Syrian society were addressed.  Turning to the draft resolution, she noted that the text referred to “foreign terrorist fighters” and underlined that it was important to ensure that resolutions on human rights concerns remained objective and not overtly politicized.  

The representative of Japan said that, in co-sponsoring the text, it was taking into consideration the dire human rights situation in Syria.  It was, however, uncomfortable with the references it made to the Al-Quds Brigades and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  It was hoped that all sides would take heed of the draft and work towards improving the situation.

Hungary’s speaker expressed concern about operative paragraphs 14 and 16, which referred for foreign fighters.  Resolutions on human rights should avoid politicization, he said, hoping that, in the future, unnecessary divisive issues would be avoided in such texts.

The representative of Saudi Arabia thanked all his colleagues who had voted in favour.  Comments made with regard to the text would be taken into consideration.  It was hoped that it would not be necessary to present a resolution on Syria in the coming years, he concluded.

For information media. Not an official record.