CAPITAL PUNISHMENT NOT PROHIBITED UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

GA/SHC/3897
30 October 2007

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT NOT PROHIBITED UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

30 October 2007
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3897
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Third Committee

30th & 31st Meetings (AM & PM)


CAPITAL PUNISHMENT NOT PROHIBITED UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD


Death Penalty Compromises Dignity of Mankind,

Assembly Called Upon to Adopt Resolution for Moratorium


The death penalty featured prominently today, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its discussion of human rights issues, with some delegations calling for its abolition, or at least a moratorium on its use, and others defending its application, saying that it did not violate international law and accusing some States of seeking to impose their views on others.


More than 30 delegations contributed to the discussion, which also touched upon the work of the Human Rights Council, national efforts to protect and promote human rights, the equal status of political and civil rights with economic, social and cultural rights, and next year’s sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Noting that members of the European Union intended to present a draft resolution opposing the death penalty, Singapore’s representative said that capital punishment was not prohibited under international law, yet the sponsors of that draft had decided that there was only one point of view on the matter.  Every country had the sovereign right to determine its own criminal justice system, he said, adding that the real intention behind calls for a moratorium on capital punishment was the outright abolition of the practice.


Condemning the death penalty, the representative of Switzerland said it was an inhuman, degrading and irreversible form of punishment, and that his country advocated its universal abolition.  It had never made a constructive contribution to society’s efforts to fight crime, he observed, adding that 130 States had abolished or suspended the application of the death penalty, and that nine tenths of all executions took place in six countries.


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, China’s representative agreed that capital punishment was “not a human rights issue”, adding that executions in his country had reached a 10-year low.


The representative of Pakistan drew attention to the “contradiction” of those who opposed the death penalty who at the same time defended the right to abortion.  Libya’s representative stated that it was inconceivable to abolish the death penalty when it was the only way to achieve deterrence, while Egypt’s representative remarked that efforts to establish respect for human rights and democracy had been frustrated by “the increasing attempts by some to impose their narrow viewpoints” on others.


Referring to the death penalty a mode of punishment that compromised the dignity of mankind, the representative of New Zealand said it would be a “milestone” if the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on its application.  The representative of Norway also supported the call for a moratorium, as she expressed concern about executions in Iran and Afghanistan, while the observer for the Holy See reminded the Committee that, in some countries, blasphemy laws called for punishment that included the death penalty.


Some delegations expressed concern about recent events in Myanmar and others referred to the Occupied Palestinian Territory as many speakers steadily cited their own examples of human rights violations around the world throughout today’s discussions.  The representative of the Maldives said that global warming had clear human rights implications, while the representative of San Marino drew attention to the rights of the disabled.


Also making statements today were the representatives of Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Japan, China, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Ecuador, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Syria, Benin (also on behalf of the African Group), Ukraine, Colombia, Morocco, Thailand, El Salvador, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and the Republic of Korea.


Also making statements were the observers for the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


The representatives of the International Organization for Migration and the International Labour Organization also addressed the Committee today


The representatives of the Sudan, Fiji, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar and Japan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 31 October, to hear the introduction of draft resolutions and to conclude its discussion of human rights issues.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today continued its general discussion of human rights.  For more background information, please see press releases GA/SHC/3893, GA/SHC/3894, GA/SHC/3895 and GA/SHC/3896.


Statements


LARA NASSAU (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said it was important that treaty bodies continued to improve their coordination with each other, with States and with broader human rights machinery.  She, therefore, welcomed the interaction through the inter-Committee mechanism.   She also commended innovative practices that treaty bodies had put in place, such as parallel chambers for considering reports, reopening dialogue with States parties whose reports were overdue, and the distribution of a list of issues to a State party as early as possible.  Reporting in accordance with the United Nations’ Harmonized Guidelines should reduce duplication of information, she noted.


She said that, despite progress, the treaty body system needed further strengthening.  They should give consistent guidance to States and handle issues involving multiple forms of discrimination in an integrated way.  It was also critical not to lose focus on the reform of the system as a whole.  All options would be assessed, including the concept of a single, uniform treaty body that was advocated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Ways should be explored to see how treaty bodies could interact and collaborate with other human rights bodies.  The Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council was excellent for such interactions.  There might also be scope for greater interaction, or at least mutual awareness of priorities, between the treaty bodies and human rights special procedures.


NOBUKO KUROSAKI ( Japan) said human rights were an important aspect of his country’s diplomacy.  As such, his Government had built human rights perspectives into its development projects and had contributed financially to the United Nations Democracy Fund.  Japan was concerned with discrimination against leprosy-affected persons and their families.  Until 1996, it was national policy to quarantine patients of leprosy by forcibly committing them to sanatoriums.  Since then, national efforts had resulted in a significant reduction in prejudice and discrimination against such patients, and his Government now wanted to share its experiences with the international community to contribute to further progress in eradicating discrimination against leprosy-affected persons and their families worldwide.


Japan had recently signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities after negotiations with civil society and non-governmental organizations, he said.  The instrument should help persons with disabilities enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  His Government would ratify the Convention in the near future, after further discussions with civil society.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said the Human Rights Council should shake off the politicization, double standards and name-and-shame practices of the old Commission on Human Rights.  It should always commit itself to dialogue and cooperation.  The Universal Periodic Review should become a mechanism of cooperation based on objectivity, transparency, non-selectivity, non-confrontation, non-politicization and constructiveness.  Civil and political rights were not superior or inferior to economic, social and cultural rights, and the Council should treat those two categories objectively and equally.  The OHCHR was expected to strictly observe the principles of objectivity and neutrality, and to give efficient support to the Council.  It should also pay heed to the concerns of developing countries and pay more attention to economic, social and cultural rights, racism and the right to development.


China was devoted to the cause of human rights, Mr. Liu said.  Mammoth achievements had been made in economic development and great strides taken in the area of human rights.  Proactive actions had been taken by the Government to accelerate human rights legislation, push ahead judicial reform, improve judicial assistance, and advocate administration according to the law, to promote and protect all the rights of China’s citizens.  His was a developing country with many of its people still living in poverty, but its path was clear, its direction set, and its future bright.  No effort would be spared in pursuing a holistic and people-centred approach to development.


MAGED A ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said the recent agreement on the institution-building of the Human Rights Council would usher in a new phase in human rights, marked by consolidated efforts to improve the manner in which the world tackled such issues.  Currently, efforts to establish respect for human rights and democracy were being frustrated by the “increasing attempts of some to impose their narrow viewpoint” on others.  In the future, the international community should work cooperatively within a multilateral framework to ensure countries did not impose their own standards “as a means to manipulate other people’s destiny, while promoting their own interests and political goals.  Efforts should also strive to address all aspects of human rights, including political, civil, economic, cultural and social rights.  Within a United Nations framework, countries should respect the prerogatives of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, while not superseding the mandates of the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council.  The placing of United Nations human rights monitors in specific countries contravened the “bases for equality in monitoring human rights situations in developing and developed countries alike”, he added.


Protecting human rights was the responsibility of individual Governments, and the international community should adopt a cooperative and non-confrontational approach to helping nations build their capacity, he said.  On a national level, Egypt was proceeding with “gradual, calculated and confident steps in promoting and protecting human rights”.  It had made constitutional and legislative amendments and had also undertaken serious efforts to ensure continuous enhancement of, and increasing respect for, those rights.  Globally, the approach to human rights questions needed a genuine review, within the context of a commitment to the democratization of the decision-making process.  The revitalization of the role of the Assembly in dealing with human rights questions would ensure the legitimacy and seriousness of the United Nations in that context.


TOUHID HOSSAIN ( Bangladesh) said his country was committed to ensuring all human rights, including the right to development, and fundamental freedom for all its citizens.  There was no discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste or gender.  As a current member of the Human Rights Council, Bangladesh was engaged in constructive dialogues with the international community on strengthening human rights, but strongly opposed politicization of the related issues.  As national institutions were a key element of a strong national protection system, his country would soon establish a national human rights commission.


In Bangladesh, the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the rule of law went hand in hand with protection of human rights, he said.  The Police Act was being revised to ensure the forces were professional, depoliticized and adhered to human rights principles and standards.  The separation of the judiciary from the executive branch was expected to come into effect soon.  His country’s efforts, however, to realize human rights goals were often threatened by dire poverty, which itself constituted a gross violation of human rights.  Although the ultimate responsibility of ensuring respect for human rights lay with the national Government, efforts needed to be complemented by effective partnerships with the international community.


Msgr. BERNARDITO AUZA, observer for the Holy See, recalled the two substantive issues that had been raised vis-à-vis the special rapporteurs’ activities:  the situation of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, as well as matters related to blasphemy laws, education and equality legislation.  In some countries, blasphemy laws called for punishments that included death, destruction of places of worship or summary justice.  He urged public authorities, in places where such laws were in force, to grant full respect for human rights in cases of those accused of blasphemy.


Initiatives to foster debate on the balance between freedom of speech and respect for religion -- as well as religious symbols -- would boost mutual understanding, he said.  Everyone, however, must exercise responsibility while engaged in such a dialogue.  Religions and their symbols should be respected, and believers should not be provoked or vilified for their religious convictions.  Dialogue and debates on religion should also not exclude those who did not adhere to any particular religion.  He expressed serious concern over the frequency of communications sent by the Special Rapporteur on infringements to the right to freedom of religion.  Forced conversions, executions, desecration of places of worship, expulsion of religious minorities from their communities, and other forms of religious persecution were all violations of human rights.  He hoped dialogue among religions would contribute to greater respect for religious freedom everywhere.


Senator SARDAR MUHAMMED JAMAL KHAN LEGHARI ( Pakistan) said the aspirations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could not be realized when almost one third of the world’s population lived in abject poverty.  The right to life was threatened by want, war and violence, while millions suffered under the heel of foreign occupation.  Within the United Nations, the promotion of human rights had often been used as an instrument of political pressure and interference in the domestic affairs of Member States; and it could also be used to justify military intervention.  Several things could be done to improve the functioning of United Nations human rights machinery, such as addressing xenophobia and Islamophobia, respecting cultural diversity and avoided double standards.


Special procedures and mandates had to be rationalized, he said.  Too many special rapporteurs focused mostly on civil and political issues, while some pursued their own agendas.  Advocacy, through the United Nations, of the values of economically advanced societies was also counterproductive.  Many human rights advocates did not see the contradictions of their own positions, such as opposing the death penalty while defending the right to abortion.  Despite its faults, the institution-building package of the Human Rights Council had launched the substantive work of the Council, and it should not be opened for discussion or amendment.  Pakistan hoped that the Council would build a mechanism that would extricate human rights from the bitter past legacy of selectivity, politicization and double standards.


MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA ( Kazakhstan) said that, since independence, her country had become a stable developing economy with civil society institutions made up of more than 5,000 non-governmental organizations.  Freedom of speech was guaranteed, and censorship prohibited.  Around 85 per cent of the media companies were privately owned.  Kazakhstan, with its more than 130 ethnic groups and 40 religions, could be regarded by others as a model community.


Kazakhstan was party to many important human rights agreements, she said, and listed many of them, as well as the years of ratification.  She also noted her country’s recently issued Baseline Report on Human Rights, which gave a comprehensive analysis of the national legislation and law-enforcement practice vis-à-vis compliance with international human rights standards.  Kazakhstan was bidding for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chairmanship in 2009, which it believed could be a powerful catalyst of reforms and additional confirmation of her country’s choice of further liberalization and democratization.


MARIE YVETTE BANZON-ABALOS ( Philippines) said peace processes between her Government and groups such as the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front included mechanisms to jointly monitor of human rights violations on both sides.  That exemplified the belief that the protection of human rights was a collective responsibility that transcended political and ideological differences.  Even the country’s anti-terrorism efforts underscored the fact that the Government “shall not prejudice respect for human rights, which shall be absolute and protected at all times”, as stated in the 2007 Human Security Act.


In addition, the Philippines addressed links between poverty and human rights, directing more than $200 million to eradicating extreme poverty, she said.  In strengthening the legal framework to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, her Government signed the related United Nations convention, to complement the national “Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities”.  It had also signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.  When the Philippines held the presidency of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), member nations agreed in principle to create a human rights mechanism, which, hopefully, would be included in the ASEAN charter in November.  Also, in recognition of the important contributions of migrant workers around the world, her country had adopted a policy of proactive engagement to address the situation of migrant workers and their families.  Protection of the rights of migrant workers, with a strong gender perspective, was an “essential pillar” of Philippines foreign policy.  Her country had, therefore, tabled the biennial resolution on violence against women migrant workers.  Finally, as a founding member of the Human Rights Council, the Philippines would undergo a universal periodic review, which it hoped would contribute to the exchange of best practices.


VANU GOPALA MENON ( Singapore) said that, over the years, the Third Committee had become a forum for recrimination and self-righteous morality, with some countries seeking to impose their views and systems of justice on others.  That the European Union was introducing a resolution on the death penalty was extremely disappointing, though not surprising.  The last time the European Union had tried to foist such a resolution on the Committee was in 1999; that had been a divisive experience.  Capital punishment was not prohibited under international law, yet the sponsors of the draft resolution on capital punishment had decided that there could be only one view on capital punishment.  Surely, democracy was not about imposing one point of view and brooking no dissent.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not forbid the use of the death penalty, he said; indeed, at its adoption in 1948 a number of European Union countries had been implementing it.   The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also allowed capital punishment to be imposed for the most serious crimes.  Singapore was opposed to the draft resolution; application of the death penalty was a criminal justice issue, not a human rights issue, and an important component of the administration of law.  It was the right of every citizen in Singapore to live in safety, free from criminal threats to their lives.  Every country had the sovereign right to decide its own criminal justice system, and each society had to judge for itself what was best for its own people.  Some had suggested that a moratorium on execution was a compromise, but it was clear from the draft resolution that the ultimate objective was abolition.


RODRIGO RIOFRÍO ( Ecuador) said that the promotion and protection of human rights had been one of the greatest aspirations of humanity.  The establishment of the Human Rights Council was a positive development, and it was hoped that it would have legitimacy in order to do its work.  His delegation appreciated the Council’s adoption by consensus of the document on its institutional structure, which set forth guidelines for the Universal Periodic Review mechanism which promoted universality of all human rights, as well as equal treatment for all States.  He said Ecuador hoped the General Assembly would adopt the document as soon as possible, to facilitate implementation so that the Council could achieve its goals.


He said Ecuador was honoured to be a member of the Human Rights Council, and noted his country’s domestic efforts to protect the human rights of all its citizens.  It had been active in the protection of the rights of migrants; all international debates on migrants and development should include, as a priority matter, the human rights perspective for migrants in all its dimensions.


Since 2006, he added, Ecuador had been implementing a plan against trafficking, labour exploitation and other kinds of exploitation.  All United Nations human rights treaty bodies were welcome to assess the human rights situation in Ecuador through official visits; openness and transparency were the best tools of the international community to promote human rights.


JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland), noting that the Human Rights Council could concentrate on its mandate now that its institutional consolidation had been finalized, said that two questions at the institutional level had arisen:  the division of tasks between the Third Committee and the Council, and whether the Council’s annual report would be presented to the Assembly in its plenary session or in the Third Committee.  Saying it was necessary to find an appropriate balance between those two bodies to make the system as effective and credible as possible, he stressed that the Human Rights Council had the right and autonomy to adopt certain decisions and recommendations and to take initiatives for which the Assembly’s advance approval was not required.


Turning to the death penalty, he said his country was opposed to it, considered it to be an inhuman and degrading punishment, and advocated for its universal abolition.  The death penalty was difficult to reconcile with the spirit and goals of human rights.  While judges should have the right to impose the severest penalties for the most serious crimes, the death penalty was inhuman and irreversible, and should be banned.  It had never made a constructive contribution to society’s efforts to fight crime.  Nor had its deterrent effect ever been proven.  A moratorium would not increase the number of most serious criminal acts; States that had abolished capital punishment were not more violent or dangerous today than in the past.  Noting that 130 States had abolished or suspended the application of the death penalty, he highlighted that nine tenths of all executions took place in six countries:  China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the United States.  He appealed to all countries to abolish this practice as soon as possible.


NGUYEN TAT THANH ( Viet Nam) said that to ensure a balanced and comprehensive approach to human rights for all, attention should be paid to the concrete circumstances of “a given group of right-holders or a given locality”.  In that context, his country continued to do its utmost to improve both the material and the spiritual lives of its citizens, who had extremely diverse religious backgrounds.  Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Baha’i and four indigenous religions co-existed on an equal basis, practised freely and participated in international efforts to promote a culture of peace.


He said his country also valued the inclusion of people with disabilities into efforts to improve socio-economic development.  Last week, it signed the Convention of the rights of such persons.  Steps were being taken to ensure its smooth implementation at the same time as the ratification process proceeded.  In all areas, the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all could be ensured only through candid dialogue, which Viet Nam regularly held with other countries.  To facilitate such understanding, Viet Nam published human rights “white books” on its own policies.


MONA JUUL (Norway), recalling her country’s candidature to the Human Rights Council for the 2009-2012 period, said that respect for the right of freedom of expression was a pillar of democracy.  Citizens should have the right to advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights without fear of reprisals.  Continued international engagement in Myanmar was important.  Gross and systematic violations of human rights in that country were condemned by Norway, which strongly encouraged the Government there to start an inclusive dialogue with the democratic opposition and representatives of ethnic groups.  All detainees and political prisoners must be released, including Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD).


The human rights situation in the Sudan was complex, she said.  The African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) must be deployed rapidly and negotiations in Libya must succeed.  With elections again postponed, Nepal’s peace process was at a critical juncture, she said, while noting that the grave human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had to be improved, together with economic and social conditions.  Every effort should also be made to find political solutions in Iraq.


She said Norway considered the death penalty to be cruel and inhumane punishment, as well as a violation of the right to life, and it was particularly concerned about the barbaric methods used in the application of capital punishment in Iran.  While her country was pleased to note a trend towards the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, it was with deep regret that it had learned of the recent execution of 15 people in Afghanistan.  In those countries where the death penalty had not been abolished by law, a moratorium on its use should be implemented.


ALEXANDER NANTA LINGGI ( Malaysia) said his country believed all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent, as well as interrelated, and that the international community had to treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis.  Malaysia was “acutely concerned” with the increase in incidences which pointed towards Islamophobia, and believed that defamation, through an affront to an individual’s religion, was an affront to the religion itself and all its believers.  While his delegation believed in the right to freedom of opinion and expression, there was a great need for a more responsible exercise of that right.  “The infamous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a Western newspaper that we saw early last year must never be repeated”, he said.


There had to be a more constructive approach by the international community to human rights issues.  Certain matters could not be accorded different emphasis and urgency due to domestic political expediency or external pressure.  The death penalty was a criminal justice issue, imposed for the most serious crimes.  Other countries should not make assumptions based on perceived trends nor decide for themselves how they wished to see the legal systems of other countries evolved.  The new Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review mechanism was a good alternative to country-specific reports.  Turning to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said the issue deserved immediate attention and action by all Member States, particularly by the “so-called human rights defenders”.  In conclusion, he noted that the right to development was still an important cornerstone of human rights.


WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said human rights had, over history, taken different forms.  Everyone agreed that such rights had to be dealt with in a just and complementary manner, without double standards, and with national specificities being taken into account.  Her country had given particular importance to protecting human rights, and the supremacy of protecting them had been underpinned in the Syrian Constitution.  More than 17 international instruments had been ratified in the sphere of human rights.


For many decades, action vis-à-vis human rights had been politicized, she said.  They had been used to bring pressure to bear on States to get political concessions.  Faster economic, social and cultural change over the past two decades had resulted in a sense of hope for one part of mankind, and disappointment for another.  Local and international conflict had meanwhile continued, with all manner of crimes being perpetrated.  The deprivation of the rights of people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been Israel’s perception of the right to development.  The removal by the Israeli authorities of more than 150 cherry trees on 27 September 2007 had been an example of the deprivation of the right to earning a livelihood.  That occupation as such was a violation of human rights, and it had to end.


ELENA MOLARONI ( San Marino) said the fact that her country, for the first time in its history, had elected a disabled person showed changes were occurring not only in San Marino and the world, but also that people with disabilities could handle any profession.  San Marino had been working for a long time on equal rights, as well as accessibility for people with disabilities, and had been one of the first to sign the related Convention.  In the course of the effort, the Government worked closely with non-governmental organizations on a wide range of issues in the field of equal rights and opportunities.  Awareness activities were particularly important:  a social conscience was needed for everyone to be equal.


ROD KEMP ( Australia) said his country had traditionally taken a practical approach to human rights.  The credibility of the Human Rights Council would ultimately depend on its ability to act decisively and quickly on the most pressing questions.  Cooperative multilateral initiatives could do the most to advance human rights.  Australia was gravely concerned about the situation in Burma; it urged the regime there to release all political prisoners immediately, treat detainees humanely, and work with the United Nations towards genuine reform and national reconciliation.


Speaking on a point of order, the representative of Myanmar asked that his country be referred by its official name.  The Vice-Chairman, TAKASHI ASHIKI ( Japan), then asked the representative of Australia to consider that fact.


Resuming his statement, Mr. KEMP said that contempt for basic democratic principles continued in Zimbabwe, where Mr. Mugabe’s desperate regime paid no heed to international opinion or the needs of its own people.  The Government of the Sudan had failed to uphold its responsibility to protect its citizens in Darfur, and all parties were called upon to facilitate the deployment of an enhanced peacekeeping force there.  The human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a source of grave concern.  Australia deplored stoning sentences that had been carried out recently in Iran, as well as the execution of persons who were under the age of 18 when they committed their offences.  In Fiji, where intimidation of opponents of the military regime continued, credible elections should be called by the interim Government.  In Sri Lanka, early negotiations towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict in that country should begin, and an independent human rights monitoring mechanism established.


JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU (Benin), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that during the last two decades, countries from that continent had been engaged in an era of democracy and full respect for human rights.  Elections had been held in a majority of African nations, and democratic institutions put into place.  There was still a lot of work to be done to raise electoral transparency and fairness, to ensure more freedom for the media, and to create more jobs for the jobless, but the trend of democratization was irreversible.  Africa was not on track to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals; even the best-governed States on the continent had not been able to make sufficient progress to reduce extreme poverty.  Full realization of human rights should be looked at as an incremental process that could not be sustained if economic development was left behind.  Economic and social rights should also be given as much attention as political rights.


The human rights machineries of the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council, should engage in constructive dialogue with all countries on the basis of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, he said.  Based on that, the African Group wanted to see the Council fulfil its mandate vis-à-vis the universal review of human rights all over the world.  It was also important that the advisory services and technical assistance of the OHCHR be strengthened.  Next year would mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; that would be an opportunity to measure the progress made and launch a decisive initiative to give strong impetus to realizing all human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide.  Global peace and shared prosperity belonged together, because development was the second name of peace.


AHMED SAREER ( Maldives) said that the recent visit and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers was welcome at a time when his country was making significant strides in strengthening its juridical sector as part of a wide-ranging reform agenda.  He stressed that the Maldives was also committed to the international legal regime and was working with relevant mechanisms, including the United Nations Special Procedures and the National Human Rights Adviser appointed by the OHCHR.  His country recently signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was in the process of finalizing a national policy on the issue.


Stating that global warming had clear human rights implications, he announced that next month the Maldives would be hosting a small island developing States conference on “The Human Dimension of Climate Change”.  He also reiterated his country’s firm commitment to work closely with the United Nations on strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in the Maldives.


VOLODYMYR VASSYLENKO ( Ukraine) said that, while aligning fully with the statement of the European Union, his country wanted to highlight a few issues.  Human rights had to be made a third pillar of the United Nations’ work.  The Ukraine was proud to be a part of the adoption process of the Human Rights Council’s institutional functioning principles.  His country’s aspirations for candidacy to the Council next year were based on the centuries-long national tradition of tolerance within its multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.


He said Ukraine had already abolished capital punishment and welcomed the increasing number of Member States who were supporting the Declaration on Abolition of the Death Penalty.  Addressing the environmental dimension of human rights, he said that establishing proper standards of environmental human rights would contribute to the protection of the earth for the benefit of humankind.  The newly created Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention merited encouragement and support, and a decision by the Assembly to establish an International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Genocides could be a worthwhile and timely contribution to the attainment of that goal.


CARLOS SUÁREZ ( Colombia) said his country did not agree with the recommendation by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, for a five-year moratorium on the production of biofuels.  Colombia would, therefore, continue to implement its national biofuels policy, which was compatible with the country’s food security policies.  It had created decent work in the rural areas and contributed to the fight against global warming.  In the formulation of recommendations of the kind advocated by the Special Rapporteur, it would be desirable if the United Nations Special Procedures allowed States to participate in the analysis.


Referring to human rights defenders, he said that national advances in democratic security and in human rights had also impacted positively on their situations.  The risks and attacks they had faced were caused by illegal armed groups, such as Marxist guerrillas and self-defence groups who “operated with the same cruelty”.  Progress had been made in reducing impunity, and the Attorney General’s office had strengthened a special unit to investigate 256 cases of murder of union leaders that had taken place over several years.  The annual number of new cases of internal displacement had substantially decreased.   Colombia reiterated its appeal to the international community to offer its support and solidarity to her country as it defended democracy against organized crime carried out by terrorist groups and gangs.  Both were funded by the illegal drug trade, which was the root cause of Colombia’s tragedy and of the attacks on the rights and freedoms of Colombians.


HAMID CHABAR ( Morocco) said that the struggle for human rights was a permanent one, and that respect for human rights was not a luxury, but an absolute necessity.  In that spirit, a number of reforms had been undertaken by his country.  A consultative council on human rights, founded in 1994, was restructured in 2001 with broad prerogatives.  The Diwan Al Madhalim or grievances board had been created to settle differences between citizens and the State.  A new family code had been enacted that established the principle of equality between men and women.  To promote the country’s rich cultural heritage, a royal institute for Amasigh (Berber) culture was also established.


Morocco had taken steps to bring its legislation in line with international standards, he said.  Those included improvements to the code of penal procedure and the adoption of a law against torture.  Measures taken at the international level had included the withdrawal of reservations that his country had expressed vis-à-vis the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Morocco hailed the adoption, by consensus, on 25 September 2007 of a resolution concerning human rights education and training that it had presented with Switzerland before the Human Rights Council.


DON PRAMUDWINAI ( Thailand) said the international community had witnessed the emergence of human rights consciousness around the world, and that progress had been remarkable. His country believed that emerging consciousness should be nurtured so it could reach its fullest potential as a basis for harmony, tolerance and mutual understanding among all peoples and all nations.  He praised the Human Rights Council, saying Thailand believed it to be a fair and balanced package, and also welcomed the agreement reached concerning the modality of the Universal Periodic Review.  A successful Human Rights Council would require all to adopt a new mindset and a new way of working together, he noted.


But progress at the international level in itself was not sufficient or sustainable, he said.  For human rights to “take root in every soil”, they had to be cultivated at the national level.  Thailand was committed to nurturing human rights culture in its society.  The country’s strong commitment to human rights was also reflected in the new Constitution, which was adopted by the first ever nationwide referendum.  Before that, Thailand had undergone extensive and inclusive processes of drafting and consultation involving Thai citizens from a broad range of sectors, both inside and outside the country.  Now, the Constitution was in force, Thailand was looking forward to a free and fair general election, set for 23 December.  The future ASEAN human rights body would be a milestone in the larger context of integration of South-East Asian nations.  In conclusion, he noted that the best and most sustainable way of advancing human rights was to make human rights personal and familiar to people.


ABDUSSALAM SERGIWA ( Libya) said full enjoyment of human rights for all had yet to be achieved.  Serious violations continued in full view of the international community, particularly the case of the Palestinian people who had been displaced and thrown into refugee camps worldwide.  There had been a distortion of religions and hostile campaigns against Muslims, while human rights violations had been wrongly attributed to Islam.  Selectivity was still being applied in human rights, which had been made subordinate to the interests of certain States.  The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human rights in 1993, which called for objectivity and non-partiality in human rights, had to be strictly applied.


He stressed the oneness and the indivisibility of human rights.  It was not just a matter of no torture or no persecution; there also had to be the right to health and food, as well as the right to emerge from poverty.  Addressing the abolition of capital punishment, he said the safety of the public was at stake.  It was inconceivable that the death penalty could be abolished when it was the only way to achieve deterrence.  The Libyan legislature, unlike others, had adopted a compromise position, with the death penalty being imposed only in extremely rare cases for extremely serious crime.  Human rights in Libya included the right to citizenship, education, health and participation in democratic affairs.  Libya’s Green Book had contributed to the development and enjoyment of human rights, he added.


LUCÍA BORJAS CHÁVEZ ( El Salvador) said, at the national level, a State had to obey the law, as that was what gave that State legitimacy.  The prevalence of the law was a necessary condition for due process, as well as for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, she said.  El Salvador believed that protecting human rights also involved taking vulnerable groups into account.  That commitment was a substantial part of national agenda.  Her country had taken huge strides ahead, for instance, by establishing an office of human rights within the office of legal affairs.  It had also set up an inter-agency commission for missing children, following the armed conflict, to reunify families, which had been successful.


In order to ease the conditions of extreme poverty, her Government had designed a strategy to improve nutrition and education indicators, as well as access to drinking water, over the short term.  Ensuring human rights was the responsibility of the entire international community, and good faith compliance with commitments and implementation of international instruments were required if there was to be genuine rule of law.  State sovereignty could not be used as a pretext for condoning human rights violations.  The United Nations, therefore, had a key role to play in raising awareness of the need to apply international standards of human rights.  El Salvador supported the work of the Human Rights Council and was confident that it would discharge its mandate in good faith.  The Council had a heavy burden, but it was still an opportunity for it to make the necessary corrections to deal with human rights in the United Nations.  Duplication of functions within the Organization’s human rights machinery should be avoided, and there had to be communication between the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council.


MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia), reiterating his country’s commitment to collective efforts to promote human rights, commended the work of the Human Rights Council.  As a member, Indonesia would help that body meet its many remaining challenges.  He also looked forward to his country’s review under the Universal Periodic Review.  Indonesia strove for full cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms and was fulfilling its reporting obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Special Procedures mechanism of the Human Rights Council.


Indonesia, he said, had come a long way in the past 10 years of reform, transforming itself into an open, vibrant democracy, with a National Plan of Action on Human Rights 2004-2009 enacted by presidential decree.  The country had also been pushing for the integration of human rights provisions into the draft ASEAN charter, among other regional and international efforts.  Given all those factors, he firmly rejected the negative reference about the situation of human rights defenders in the statement of the European Union last Wednesday.  The people of Indonesia, who had persevered to build respect for human rights and were human rights defenders themselves, found the Union’s statement grossly incoherent, particularly since his country had already garnered praise for its progress in other forums from the same European Union.


ALISHER VOHIDOV ( Uzbekistan) said his country believed in the unity of all human rights.  International cooperation on human rights had to be based on equality and mutual respect.  Within the framework of the Human Rights Council, Uzbekistan had been advocating Universal Periodic Review.  Politically motivated and biased treatment of human rights had undermined objectivity, as well as international cooperation, which should be transparent and fair.  His country was firmly against the use of human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of a State.


He said that Uzbekistan wanted to strengthen cooperation with all United Nations human rights bodies and other interested parties.  A number of measures had been undertaken by his country to ensure human rights.  All core treaties had been ratified without reservations.  Standards of national legislation had been brought in line with United Nations instruments.  Since independence, some 15 codes and more than 400 laws had been adopted by Parliament that were in line with the provisions of international law.  Eighteen periodic reports had been presented by Uzbekistan, and recommendations had been implemented.


ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said human rights violations demanded a firm and meaningful response.  The dignity of humanity was compromised by use of the death penalty, which New Zealand had long opposed in all cases and in all circumstances.  It had been the first country to become party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.  But while considerable progress had been made in recent years to abolish the death penalty, many countries still practised that cruel, inhuman and irreversible punishment.  Adoption of a resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty would be a milestone in the international community’s efforts to eliminate it.


Turning to the Human Rights Council, she said the Universal Periodic Review was not a substitute for addressing country situations, which must continue to be a focus of the Council’s work.  Violations of human rights could not go unchallenged.  The distressing human rights situation in Myanmar was a matter of deep concern.  In Iran, there had been a regrettable deterioration in the human rights situation, including greater use of the death penalty, particularly against minors.  The situation in Zimbabwe was also a matter of grave concern, while the situation in Darfur continued to be extremely serious.  In Fiji, where a coup had taken place in December 2006, the situation was still a matter of concern.  New Zealand looked to the interim Government in Fiji to prepare for a return to constitutional and democratic Government; such steps would unlock electoral assistance that New Zealand would provide.


DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said the major United Nations conferences and summits had all addressed development issues by consensus, yet the challenges of implementation had been elusive.  Failure to achieve the goals set forth in the outcomes of those conferences had a serious negative impact on the practical enjoyment of the right to development by citizens of developing countries.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Peer Review Mechanism of the African Union had, therefore, been developed to create a policy space for international cooperation to realize the right to development.  He called on the international community to partner with Africa within the framework provided by NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism to reach those objectives and also appealed to the private sector to join in the endeavour.


Saying South Africa shared the position of the Non-Aligned Movement on the realization of the right to development, he emphasized that the way forward on that right was to elaborate the minimum normative international standard in a Convention on the Right to Development.  It was unjustifiable that the international human rights system should have international instruments only in the civil and political rights spheres.  States should also assume obligations on the minimum core obligations on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.  He endorsed the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project undertaken by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, entitled “Investing in Development:  A practical guide towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals”, and expressed concern over the notion that the realization of the right to development was a responsibility of States at the national level.  He urged all members of the international community to work together for the realization of those ideals.


MOUSSA NEBIE ( Burkina Faso) said that an arsenal of legislation and regulations had been adopted by his country to implement theConvention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  A number of steps taken at the international and national levels were spelled out, including the ratification of several conventions, as well as the embedding into the Constitution the social right of disabled persons.  Several national institutions had also incorporated the promotion and protection of the rights of disabled persons into their work.


Despite the steps that had been taken, the Government was aware that they were insufficient, and that difficulties remained in implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he said.  Statistical information on disabled persons in Burkina Faso was lacking, and there had been a lack of synergy in the work of the different actors working for the benefit of such persons.  Due to an administrative delay, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had not yet been ratified.  Technical and financial assistance was needed from multilateral and bilateral partners in order to help disabled persons in Burkina Faso.


MADHU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said that the establishment of the Human Rights Council was an important step towards ensuring everyone’s enjoyment of human rights.  Various stages of socio-economic development, however, should be taken into account while undertaking the periodic reviews.  In Nepal, considerable human rights improvements had been registered after the signing of the peace deal between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).  The country appreciated the help of the OHCHR and its valuable role in reporting and monitoring human rights violations, while assisting the Government to protect and respect human rights.


The Nepalese Government was determined to end the environment of impunity that prevailed during the armed conflict, and also to resolve the issue of disappearances.  It was also committed to ensuring the proper implementation of the peace agreement’s provisions to return the land, houses and property of internally displaced people.   Nepal’s new constitution would, for the first time, be written by the elected representatives of the people of the country.  As party to all major international human rights instruments, Nepal was fully committed to its obligations on human rights.  But his country needed additional technical and financial assistance from the international community in building and developing national capability to achieve those noble goals.


SARAH BHOROM ( Zimbabwe) said the international human rights agenda should focus on advancing full rights for all, including the right to development.  However, the freedom enjoyed by many developing countries to pursue those rights was too often circumscribed by powerful countries whose pursuit of domination knew no bounds.  Their continued implementation of neo-liberal formulas would ensure that the full realization of human rights remained unattainable.


Developed countries, she said, apparently lacked the political will to seriously reduce the inequalities that existed in the world to enjoy socio-economic rights.  Instead of using human rights issues to settle political scores and carrying on arms races, the European Union and its allies should provide more resources to the fulfilment of those rights.  The statement by the Union on human rights in Zimbabwe was inspired by the United Kingdom Government’s objective of “regime change” in the country, after it lost the war to perpetuate its subjugation.  Facts in that statement were, therefore, misrepresented to make Zimbabwe seem like a nation that must be freed from some imagined internal oppression.


Zimbabwe, she said, was a victim of coercive measures, imposed by the European Union, United States and the CANZ Group ( Canada, Australia and New Zealand) to punish it for exercising the right to its land resources enshrined in the United Nations Charter and human rights instruments.  The family of free nations should not accept such economic strangulation and political blackmail.  After its costly war of liberation, few countries could teach Zimbabwe the value of freedom, and there were no apologies necessary for redistributing land from minority white farmers to the majority black citizens.  He hoped all countries would reject the politicization of human rights issues in all international forums, including the Human Rights Council.


YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that, to protect and promote human rights in practice, the international community had to take into account the respective situations of each country’s history, tradition and culture.  Over the years, the global human rights situation had improved, in pace with the general trend towards democratization and increased respect for the rule of law.  But in a number of places, grave violations of human rights continued, and the United Nations had to address those effectively.  Japan, therefore, expressed its appreciation for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and called upon that country to respond to the international community’s call for the country to allow the Special Rapporteur to visit without delay.  His country would continue to work through dialogue to resolve the abductions issue.  He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to respond to Japan’s requests as it had agreed to do at the Six-Party Talks.


Turning to human rights in other parts of the world, he said that the human rights situation in Myanmar was a source of concern.  The authorities had used force against peaceful demonstrators, resulting in heavy casualties, including a Japanese citizen.  Japan welcomed the trials in Cambodia of former Khmer Rouge, and said that they would finally bring to justice those who were guilty of committing truly heinous acts.  His country recently completed the ratification procedure and became a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and would participate actively in that Court’s effective functioning.  “We should never interrupt our efforts or give up hope for the future”, he said in conclusion.  Japan would continue to work to promote and protect human rights with the United Nations.


MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU ( Cameroon) said the statements and presentations made in the Third Committee had revealed much about the status of human rights and fundamental freedoms in many countries in the world.  Progress could be seen in the growing number of States becoming parties to international human rights instruments.  The results that had been achieved, however, were very far from what had been hoped for.  More than ever, attention needed to be paid to the right to development.


Reports that had been put before the Committee had shown that a great gap still existed between principle and reality, he said.  It was hoped that OHCHR would seek to narrow that gap.  In the age of globalization, the dignity of the human being had to be at the heart of concerns.  The Central African Regional Centre of OHCHR in Yaoundé did multisectorial and multidimensional work.  It had been very dynamic, but it had been hampered by a lack of resources.  It should be strengthened with more financial and human resources, as called for by the Assembly.


KIM HYUN-CHONG ( Republic of Korea) said that there was a serious discrepancy between human rights achievements on paper and the reality faced by many people throughout the world.  The United Nations’ human rights aspirations should be matched by an ability to act on them effectively, something which could only be achieved by mainstreaming human rights and incorporating a rights-based approach into all aspects of the Organization’s work.  The Republic of Korea, therefore, welcomed progress by the Human Rights Council in the institution-building process, and noted that its Universal Periodic Review mechanism was one of its most important new elements.  But beyond mere dialogue, that mechanism should be a meaningful exercise that contributed to the real improvement of the situation of people in need of protection.


With the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the United Nations faced high expectations for the improvement of human rights.  The Organization’s ability to move from rhetorical support to real strengthening of human rights protection was largely dependent on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office.  Addressing situations around the world, he cited the situation of women and children in Darfur, which continued to be a source of serious concern.  The international community should also continue to pay attention to the human rights situation in Myanmar, while ongoing conflicts in the Middle East continued to “cast a dark cloud” over human rights advocacy.  His own country had experienced difficulties in the past, but had been tireless in pursuing the promotion and protection of human rights.


ANDA FLIP, Permanent Observer for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said the Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, distributed among delegations, aimed to explain the key provisions of the Convention, highlighting good practices as parliamentarians embarked upon the ratification and implementation process.  During its 117th Assembly in Geneva in early October, member parliaments had devoted special attention to the issue of human rights violations in Myanmar.  Of particular concern were the continuing detention of 13 parliamentarians-elect and the refusal of the military junta to honour the results of the 1990 elections.  In a resolution, parliaments strongly deplored the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations and called for the immediate and unconditional release of the jailed parliamentarians-elect, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and others.


The Observer said parliament was a guardian of human rights.  Last week, IPU had organized a seminar on “migration and human rights”, together with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and OHCHR.  Migration affected all countries in the world.  It was usually seen from a purely economic or development perspective, but it brought to the fore civil, political, economic and social rights.  The seminar’s report stressed, among other things, that parliamentarians must speak more clearly and publicly about the important contribution of migrants to growth and prosperity, and must confront fellow parliamentarians when they appealed to emotional negative stereotyping for political gain.


LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that his organization aimed to enhance the humane and orderly management of migration by extending protection to migrants, while ensuring effective respect for their human rights, consistent with international law.  Outlining recent developments, he highlighted the priorities of the current year’s Global Forum on Migration and Development, which included fighting racism and xenophobia, implementation of international instruments, legislation and procedures to protect and fight discriminatory treatment of migrants, and fighting labour trafficking.


In addition, the IOM Council, at its latest session in June, acknowledged that the promotion and protection of migrant rights were integral parts of the organization’s programmes, both conceptually and in practice.  That meant that, although IOM had no legal protection mandate, its de facto activities contributed to such protection of migrant rights.


DJANKOU NDJONJOU, Director of the New York Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO), welcomed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly the provisions on work and employment, vocational training, “habilitation” and rehabilitation.  The Convention reflected a shift in thinking about disability issues and was anchored in the human rights framework.  While not creating new rights, it affected the opportunities of around 470 million disabled men and women of working age to obtain freely chosen decent work through its provisions on vocational training, work and employment, habilitation and rehabilitation.  It contained provisions meant to encourage the recruitment of disabled persons, thus helping to ensure progress in making workplaces more accessible and inclusive.


He said ILO had increased its collaboration with Governments.  Legislative guidelines had been developed and made available in 11 languages.  A database on disability-related law and policy has been compiled and was accessible through the Internet.  A curriculum on disability law and policy had been developed and tested in several developing countries to build the capacity of Government, lawyers, social partners and disability advocates.  He noted that the theme of the 2007 International Day for Disabled Persons would be “decent work for persons with disabilities”.  On that occasion, the international and national measures to promote the right to decent work of persons with disabilities would be reviewed.


MICHAEL SCHULZ, Deputy Permanent Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said knowledge-sharing was integral to the management of effective programmes in the area of disability.  He particularly noted the Child Rights Information Network for disseminating information on many issues relating to disabilities.  The clear wish of Governments, non-governmental organizations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent to define roles, work in partnership and design programmes in partnership with persons with disabilities themselves was a clear expression of the best way forward in all situations where vulnerability needs must be addressed.  He expressed pleasure to see that this was recognized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and brought to the world by its new, appropriately named website “Enable”.


Work with and for persons with disabilities was in many ways exemplified by the theme, “Together with Humanity”, for the upcoming International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement at the end of November, he said.  The conference would set a new pattern of partnerships for the future, and would use building blocks provided by the work of the United Nations and others, particularly the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty.  He noted that his organization was committed to the success of both, and looked forward to the entry into force of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.  It would discuss with OHCHRthe best ways of contributing to the work of the future Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Right of Reply


The representative of the Sudan said Australia’s statement lacked objectivity, and expressed a view based on politicization, serving a well-known agenda that had nothing to do with human rights.  Australia was not eligible to lecture on human rights because of its treatment of immigrants and aboriginal people.  In Australia the latter had been subjected to annihilation, and he hoped that country would have the courage to admit its history, which was full of human rights violations.


The representative of Fiji said that the representative of Australia had mentioned his country and expressed concern about human rights there.  The specific reference to Fiji was perceived by his delegation as most unkind and irrelevant, and it did not contribute to rebuilding his country.  He assured the Committee that there was no intimidation of the media or legal professionals in Fiji.  Two days ago, his country had assured the Third Committee of its pleasure in working cooperatively with the international community.  Of all countries, Australia knew that Fiji needed encouragement to progress towards democratic governance.  “We do not need frowns and sticks implying that we are a naughty boy”, he said.  His country was acutely aware of the international community’s concern.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, replying to the statement by Japan, said his country had acted with great generosity in the case of abducted Japanese citizens.  If Japan had true will to resolve the issue, it should inform the families of the victims of the sincere efforts that had been undertaken by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Regarding the statement made by Australia, the representative said he had no intention of responding to it in detail.


The representative of China, responding to the statement made by Switzerland, said that under Chinese criminal law, only a tiny handful of criminals faced execution for only the most severe crimes.  Strict procedures had been put in place on the application of the death penalty.  In 2006, the use of the death penalty in his country had decreased to a 10-year low.  That punishment was not a human rights issue, and it was not forbidden under international human rights law.  More than 80 countries retained the death penalty, compared to some 70 which had abolished it.  Countries that once applied the death penalty, in some cases not long ago, should refrain from imposing their views on others in a great hurry.


The representative of Myanmar said that his country had been unfairly criticized, and that it was well known that Myanmar had agreed to visits by both Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues, and Paolo Sérgio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar.  His country believed that the good offices process should be allowed to go on.


The representative of Japan said abduction was a very serious issue of international concern because not only Japanese had been abducted, but Thai and Romanian citizens, as well.  Abduction was a serious human rights violation.  While the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea claimed that the issue had been resolved, Japan was not satisfied by such an explanation, because it believed 12 abductees were still alive.  Those persons should be allowed to return to Japan, he said, and added that the matter was not resolved, but continued to exist as a serious issue.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea disputed what his counterpart from Japan had said.  Japan’s claims could only be settled once the dead had returned to life and all missing Japanese had reappeared.  It would be a shame if that country kept insisting on such preposterous claims, while escaping responsibility for its own past crimes.


The representative of Japan said the abductions issue had been internationally recognized.  Resolutions of the Assembly of last year and the previous year had mentioned the abductions as serious cases.  That the matter had to be resolved was crystal clear; Japan stood ready to discuss the issue on the basis of the Pyongyang Declaration and other recent agreements.


* *** *

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