The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved six draft resolutions today amid new divisions in long‑standing agreements on sexual and reproductive rights, and in the delicate balance between efforts to fight racism and those to protect free speech.
The Committee held to past practice in approving without a vote a draft resolution on child, early and forced marriage. By its terms, the Assembly would call on States — with the participation of women and girls, men and boys, parents and teachers, religious leaders and others — to eliminate that practice. It would urge States to uphold laws preventing such abuse, as well as to tackle poverty and entrenched economic incentives, as drivers of it. They should also remove barriers to education and ensure access to justice.
However, the draft’s traditional consensus was thrown into question after the last‑minute proposal of four amendments by the United States representative, who called them “common sense” changes that would clarify references to sexual and reproductive health. The Committee rejected amendments by a recorded vote of 96 against to 33 in favour, with 35 abstentions.
Explaining her negative vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said protecting children from early and forced marriage — with all that it entails for sexual and reproductive rights — is a critical part of development. “It is the right thing to do and also a smart thing to do”, she said. “Agreed language is agreed language” and a baseline that should not be reopened for politicized reasons.
In another contentious vote, the Committee approved a draft on combating the glorification of Nazism by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Ukraine, United States), with 51 abstentions. Introducing the text, the representative of the Russian Federation noted current attempts to rewrite history in the name of narrow‑minded geopolitical interests. Xenophobic rhetoric — justified as “free speech” — has become part of electoral campaigns, he asserted.
By its terms, the Assembly would express alarm over the spread of extremist political parties, movements and groups, including neo‑Nazis and skinhead groups, as well as racist extremist movements and ideologies. It also would call for the universal implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Its passage followed the failure — by a recorded vote of 75 against to 2 in favour (Ukraine, United States), with 88 abstentions — of an amendment introduced by the United States delegate, which sought to address the text’s “politicized roots”. She said the draft attempts to criminalize free speech and expression. The solution to hate is not censorship; it will only be found in the free marketplace of ideas.
Consensus was also tested on the subject of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with Sudan’s delegate calling for a vote on a proposal to delete the draft’s reference to the International Criminal Court, which he said has no organic relation to the topic. The measure was defeated by a recorded vote of 91 against to 22 in favour, with 44 abstentions, before the Committee passed the draft as a whole without a vote.
Also today, the Committee approved draft resolutions on the right of Palestinians to self‑determination; and on the human rights situations in Iran, and in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 16 November, to take further action on draft resolutions.
The Committee first turned to the draft resolution titled “Child, early and forced marriage” (document A/C.3/73/L.22/Rev1).
The representative of Zambia introduced the draft also on behalf of Canada and other co‑sponsors, noting that every year, 12 million girls under the age of 18 experience child, early and forced marriage. In the month of November alone, 1 million girls will be married. Between sunrise and sunset, 33,000 children are married off in early marriage, jeopardizing their health, ending their education, threatening their lives and preventing them from reaching their full potential. “The current pace of change must be accelerated if this practice should be ended before 2030”, he said, stressing that the draft reflects the shared global commitment to do what must be done to end the practice.
The representative of the United States presented amendments which she said offer helpful compromises on key issues, describing them as “common sense solutions” to problems expressed across regional groups, to give both sides “something they want” while not breaking with consensus. She proposed adding the words “in accordance with national laws” to preambular paragraph 22, and operative paragraphs 11, 15 and 16, while on the latter paragraph, striking the words “of their review conferences” in favour of “as adopted by the General Assembly” to capture the fact that not all countries can be bound by regional review conferences in which they do not participate. Such changes would thus improve references to sexual and reproductive health by clarifying them in the context of agreed language.
The representative of Canada, speaking also on behalf of Zambia, said the Committee had expressed a common global understanding of the seriousness of child, early and forced marriage in approving the resolution by consensus each year since it was first put forward in 2013. The amendments call into question language used by the United Nations for decades, he said, calling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development crucial in that regard and urging all to vote against the amendments.
The representative of the United States, noting that the co‑facilitators had filed a revised text this morning, moved to suspend the meeting for 15 minutes to review the amendments.
The Committee then rejected the motion to suspend the meeting by a recorded vote of 73 against to 33 in favour, with 33 abstentions.
The representative of New Zealand, speaking on behalf of a cross‑regional group of countries, expressed regret over the breaking of consensus on the resolution, given the importance of the topic, and concern over the lack of regard shown for the Committee’s appropriate procedure, with the last‑minute circulation of amendments, which seek to modify language that had been agreed for years. The language comes from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, he said, recalling that, since 1990, there has been agreement on sexual and reproductive health.
He said such terminology has been used to encompass a wide range of perspectives, and in the 2030 Agenda, all countries have committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. He expressed disappointment that some sought to upset the balance achieved on those issues, noting that such universally agreed concepts have been accompanied by progress: global maternal mortality dropped by 44 per cent between 1999 and 2015. However, there are still 300,000 maternal deaths caused by preventable diseases. “We must not accept attempts to undermine the normative framework that underpins our work,” he said, calling those deaths a human tragedy and violation of human rights, and urging all to vote against the amendments.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed support for the vast majority of amendments, however given their late circulation, he will abstain for procedural reasons.
The representative of Namibia expressed regret that the amendments came at a late hour. She will vote against them, as the language in the resolution is sufficient to cover States’ concerns and there is a lack of time to consider them.
The representative of Uruguay expressed regret over the breakdown of consensus. He also expressed concerns about the tendency to reverse progress on sexual and reproductive rights, which undermines internationally agreed concepts. Reproductive health is defined as a set of technical methods and services that lead to reproductive health and resolution of problems. Through the 2030 Agenda, notably Goals 7.3 and 6.3, countries support those services. Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental human right. He will vote against the amendments and urged others to do likewise.
The representative of Cuba, citing their late circulation, said the amendments reveal a pattern of action against multilateralism and seek to change agreements of the Assembly. He will vote against them.
The representative of South Africa said both the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union have taken steps to end early and forced child marriage. The hostile amendments undermine the Committee’s work. If the United States had wished to achieve consensus, it would have submitted the amendments on time. They contradict the content of the resolution and she will vote against them.
The representative of Australia said the hostile amendments were circulated late last night. “This is not a precedent we want to begin for our Third Committee resolutions,” he said. “Women rights deserve more consideration than this.” Year after year, the agreed language has allowed for countries to take their respective approaches. He urged delegates to vote against the amendments.
The representative of Canada requested a vote on the amendments and urged all delegates to reject them.
The representative of the United States in a general statement said that given the revised draft resolutions, the proposed amendments now concern preambular paragraph 23, as well as operative paragraphs 14, 17 and 18.
The representative of Austria, speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of the European Union, expressed deep regret over the decision to table the amendments to an important resolution that has always been approved by consensus. Member States, many with divergent views, have always been able to agree to that language. Undermining the resolution only impacts the most fundamental rights of women, girls and children. The bloc will vote against the amendments and encouraged others to do likewise.
The representative of the United Kingdom said protecting children from early and forced marriage, with all that it entails for sexual and reproductive rights, is a critical part of development. The United Kingdom prioritizes sexual and reproductive health across its development partnerships. “It is the right thing to do and also a smart thing to do”, she said. “Agreed language is agreed language. It is our baseline” and should not be reopened for politicized reasons. She agreed with New Zealand’s delegation about procedures and safeguards in the text. She will vote no on the amendments and urged others to do likewise.
The representative of Finland, on behalf of Nordic countries, called the draft resolution a truly cross‑regional initiative, which demonstrates the essence of multilateralism. The resolution has long been adopted by consensus with wide cross‑regional co‑sponsorship. He expressed regret that essential parts of what must be addressed, and has long been agreed, are now being challenged. “When we cannot agree with new elements, we go back to what we have previously agreed”, he said. Undermining consensus risks negative consequences, impacting first and foremost the rights of women and girls. The Nordic countries cannot support the amendments and will vote against them, he said, calling on others to do likewise.
The Committee then rejected the draft amendments by a recorded vote of 96 against to 33 in favour, with 35 abstentions.
The representative of Jamaica, in explanation of vote, said she voted in favour of the amendments as they align with national policies. She welcomed language that considered the interests of all Member States, however more time should have been allotted to consider the amendments.
The representative of Pakistan said he had voted in favour of the amendments because of their substance and not on procedural grounds.
The representative of Nigeria voted in favour of the amendments, given the importance they accorded to sovereignty over less‑important issues. Thus, he voted on the basis of substance, rather than procedure.
The representative of Libya voted in favour of the amendments as they perfectly reflected legal reforms in his country.
The representative of Egypt voted for the amendments on the basis of substance, not procedure.
The representative of Indonesia said he had abstained from the vote based on a procedural issue and not substance.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed concern that the draft’s sponsors deemed it unnecessary to include his country’s concerns and explain what is involved in early marriage. He had proposed including a clarifying paragraph and was prepared to work on a compromise option, an approach supported by most delegations. However, the sponsors decided not to include compromise wording. He expressed regret that substantive discussion was deferred to the last minute and was “rather superficial”. The sponsors did not show flexibility. Only through mutual respect and equal dialogue, accommodating diverse positions, could success be achieved. But given the importance of the topic, he will not break the consensus.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would call on States — with the participation of women and girls, men and boys, parents and teachers, religious leaders and others — to eliminate child, early and forced marriage. It would urge States to enact, enforce, harmonize and uphold laws to prevent, respond to and end that practice, as well as to tackle poverty and entrenched economic incentives, as drivers of it. They should also remove barriers to education, formulate national strategies to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, and ensure access to justice.
An observer of the Holy See, in explanation of vote, said her delegation engaged in negotiations to promote the advancement of women and girls. She expressed disappointment over the failure to achieve consensus and the disregard for “red lines” communicated throughout the process. She had hoped to achieve a stronger document that would help end the practice of child, early and forced marriage. The Committee’s success is contingent on return to the fundamental principle of consensus, she said, expressing regret that the process was derailed by an “inordinate” focus on sexual and reproductive rights, and an unwillingness to define the concept of early, child and forced marriage. State sovereignty includes the right to include recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development in a manner in line with national laws. Those principles are paramount and should have been included in the text.
Moving on, 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.3/73/L.53/Rev.1).
The representative of the Russian Federation, introducing the draft, recalled that 70 years ago, the anti‑Hitler coalition gave rise to the United Nations, a triumph over nationalism and hate that reinforced the Nuremberg tribunal. There must be pride in the creation of a global system of international security, as well as human rights instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and conventions on discrimination. He noted current attempts to rewrite history in the name of narrow‑minded geopolitical interests, evidenced in new memorials and the renaming of streets that honoured collaborators of Nazism. Such actions are incompatible with the obligations of Member States. Xenophobic rhetoric has become part of electoral campaigns, marked by statements justified as “free speech”. Such behaviour is cynical, given countries’ human rights obligations under international law.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan, also on behalf of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan, said the lack of a collective response to Nazism facilitated the rise of the Third Reich and the Second World War, which was unprecedented in its violation of human rights. It was unacceptable to make national heroes of those who had committed grave crimes during that time. Having learned about the dangers of hatred and violence, and witnessing increased hotbeds around the world, he decisively condemned monuments to Nazism.
The representative of Belarus called for combating the glorification of Nazism in any form, neo‑Nazism and the Nazi past. Such glorification cannot be justified through freedom of speech or expression or equated with exercising human rights. Racism and xenophobia had a destructive impact on youth. Efforts to end the resurgence of such movements and ideologies should be a focus at the United Nations, without politicization, she said, voicing support for the resolution.
The representative of the United States expressed concern over the politicized roots of the draft resolution. It required changes, a point expressed during informal meetings. The United States aimed to work with like‑minded countries to improve the text. Her country does not need to defend its position on Nazism, she said, recalling that the greatest fear the Nazis had was of the United States, as it stood for liberty and humanism. A draft resolution should honour that truth.
However, the current draft was borne of a political controversy, she said. It is an annual power play by one country attempting to exert influence over a region without genuine efforts to actually combat Nazism, and instead, seeking to criminalize free speech and expression. The United States is disgusted by anti‑Semitism and fought a war against it. However, the solution to hate “is not censorship and will only be found in the free marketplace of ideas. The best antidote to free speech is free speech,” she said, proposing an amendment to remedy areas where the draft falls short and as a start to addressing the cynicism.
The representative of the Russian Federation opposed the amendment as the draft resolution is the result of intensive negotiations that involved six rounds of open informal consultations. The goal of the amendment is to whitewash Nazism and rewrite the Nuremberg tribunal judgements, which would only lead to more migrant phobia and aggressive nationalism. He called it unethical and sacrilegious to vote for the amendment, considering all who had died, urging delegates to vote against it.
The delegate of South Africa said that as host of the 2001 World Conference against Racism, her country rejected the amendments and the fact that they were presented so late, notably as they seek to remove article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. She will vote no on the amendments.
The representative of Cuba, in a general statement, said the United States delegation did not circulate the amendment prior to tabling it. Such behaviour undermines, and shows disdain for, multilateralism. Cuba will vote against the amendment, he said, urging others to do the same.
The Committee then rejected the amendment by a recorded vote of 75 against to 2 in favour (Ukraine, United States), with 88 abstentions.
The representative of Uruguay, speaking in explanation of vote, said her delegation abstained because it did not have enough time to consider the amendment.
The Chair replied to a question by the Russian Federation’s delegate that the representative of the United States requested the recorded vote.
The representative of the United States, making a general statement, encouraged delegations that abstained to work with her delegation next year to find common ground. While delegations might not have had enough time to consider the amendment, they had sufficient time to examine the draft resolution’s flaws. Hateful ideologies are defeated by taking action; neutrality only serves the oppressor, not the oppressed. Assuring that the United States continues to condemn all forms of intolerance and hatred at home and abroad, she said the draft resolution criminalizes free speech and serves as a nation’s political weapon against its neighbours. Its vague terminology can be used to target political opponents and undermine the ability of civil society to spotlight violations. As it has done for decades, the United States will vote against the draft resolution, she stated, urging others to do the same.
The representative of Ukraine, speaking in explanation of vote, said millions of Ukrainians made an enormous contribution to the victory over Nazism. While reiterating his country’s condemnation of Nazism, racism, xenophobia and intolerance, he said this draft resolution has nothing to do with Nazism and other forms of intolerance. He condemned the Russian Federation’s cynical attempt to present itself as a champion of the fight against Nazism and neo‑Nazism while perpetrating crimes against other nations. Pointing out the propaganda motives of the resolution, he urged all delegations to vote against it.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Ukraine, United States), with 51 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would express alarm over the spread in many parts of the world of various extremist political parties, movements and groups, including neo‑Nazis and skinhead groups, as well as racist extremist movements and ideologies — and further — over the fact that this trend has resulted in the implementation of discriminatory measures, policies and bills at the local or national levels. It would call for the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and urge those States parties that have not yet done so to consider making the declaration under its article 14.
The representative of Austria, speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of the European Union, said initiatives related to the common goal of ending racism should unite Member States, not divide them. They should address racism in a balanced and comprehensive manner. While acknowledging some changes requested by the European Union were made, he said they were not sufficient to correct the draft resolution’s selectivity, bias and negativity.
The representative of Australia shared serious reservations about this resolution, including those expressed by the European Union, and those of the United States regarding freedom of expression. Australia looks forward to addressing these concerns next year.
The representative of Canada, while acknowledging the draft resolution contributes to the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance, voiced regret that the changes proposed to broaden its scope were not accepted. Canada shares the concerns voiced by the United States pertaining to freedom of expression. And yet, the amendment would have only addressed some of the draft resolution’s flaws. Canada had abstained for procedural reasons.
The representative of Nigeria said his country supports any initiative that addresses racism, xenophobia and all forms of intolerance. He voted in favour of the resolution to encourage global efforts to address racial discrimination. Tackling this scourge is a priority for Nigeria.
Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “The right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination” (document A/C.3/73/L.29).
The representative of Egypt, introducing the draft on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the Palestinians suffer from the longest occupation in modern history, which has denied them the enjoyment of fundamental rights.
The Chair replied to the representative of Egypt that the representative of Israel had requested a recorded vote on the matter.
The representative of Israel, making a general statement, said this resolution, which has been introduced on multiple occasions, has done nothing to promote peace. For peace to be achieved in the Middle East, Palestinians must negotiate with Israel rather than ignore it.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 169 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 12 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the right of Palestinians to self‑determination, including to an independent State of Palestine, and urge all States and United Nations agencies to continue to support Palestinians in the early realization of that right.
The representative of Argentina, speaking in explanation of vote, reaffirmed the right of Palestinians to self‑determination. Argentina’s recognition of a Palestine State seeks to foster negotiations that will lead to the conflict’s end. Emphasizing that self‑determination is applicable exclusively when there is an active subject enjoying this right, he welcomed the adoption of this new draft resolution.
An observer of the State of Palestine, making a general statement, said the overwhelming support for this resolution represents the continued support for the right of Palestinians to self‑determination. It in no way obstructs the search for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but rather reflects the collective will to uphold international law. Israel’s narrative on this issue and its contempt for international law, which the resolution rejects, must end. Israel’s negative vote can only be interpreted as its rejection of a peace settlement based on two States. Recalling that Palestine recognized Israel, and its right to exist, 25 years ago, she stressed the right to self‑determination is inalienable for all and not up for negotiation. She called for an urgent mobilization of responsibility on the question of Palestine by bringing Israel’s occupation to an end.
Next, the Committee took up the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (document A/C.3/73/L.40*).
The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement in general statement, expressed deep concern over the proliferation of selective country‑specific resolutions which exploit human rights for political purposes. He cautioned against duplication and overlap, reaffirming the need for greater coherence between the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council to create a working relationship. The Universal Periodic Review is the main platform for reviewing human rights issues at the national level, with due consideration given to a country’s capacity‑building needs.
He stressed the importance of its implementation based on objective and reliable information. He condemned gross systematic violations of human rights and situations that obstructed their full enjoyment, stressing that all rights, including to development, are universal, inalienable, irreversible and interrelated. Such issues must be addressed through non‑confrontational, non‑selective dialogue that respects sovereignty, territorial integrity, non‑interference, impartiality and transparency as guiding principles, and that considers countries’ social, political and cultural specificities.
The representative of the United States said her country respected the decision of those who had joined the International Criminal Court, and in turn, expected its own decision not to join to likewise be respected. Several resolutions include references to the Court and its founding Rome Statute, which the United States cannot support, as the language does not distinguish between parties and non‑parties to that instrument. Her Government will continue its objection to asserting the Court’s jurisdiction on non‑parties, including the United States and Israel, absent a Security Council referral. She reiterated serious concern over the Court’s proposed investigation of United States personnel deployed in Afghanistan.
The representative of Nicaragua associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement in a general statement, expressed profound concern over the “vicious” practice of adopting selective resolutions in the Third Committee, stressing that human rights issues should be addressed in a global context in a fair and equitable manner that respects sovereignty and non‑interference in State affairs, and is guided by impartiality, non‑selectivity and transparency, considering historic, cultural and other specificities.
The representative of Austria, on behalf of the European Union and Japan, introduced the draft resolution, recalling the ongoing diplomatic efforts to advance peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. A better future for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea can be achieved by urgently addressing its human rights situation. Among many concerns, he cited torture and ill‑treatment in detention facilities, hunger leading to malnutrition, and violation of women’s rights. The draft is still of utmost importance as the situation is very serious.
The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “resolutely and totally” rejected the draft, calling it a “product of a political plot of hostile forces trying to overthrow the social system”. He deplored that the European Union and Japan had instigated a confrontation by tabling the text, which is replete with political criticism and fabrications, especially during a time of reconciliation and cooperation. He cited Islamophobia, xenophobia and the worst‑ever refugee crisis in the Union as crimes against humanity. He called Japan a criminal State which had militarily occupied “Korea”, citing the massacre of 1 million people, forced drafting of 8.4 million, and sexual slavery of 200,000 people for servicing the Japanese army as crimes against humanity.
The representative of Syria rejected politicization and disassociated from consensus on the draft resolution.
The representative of Japan noted the fifth year of the Commission of Inquiry report describing the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as “one that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”. The Secretary‑General’s report also highlights a continued pattern of serious human rights violations. The abduction of Japanese citizens by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is among the gravest of such violations, with most not yet returned home. There is no time to waste in resolving this issue, he said, adding that Japan is ready to overcome mutual distrust.
The representative of Canada, noting the inclusion of new language on gender equality, expressed deep concern over human rights abuses and called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to address its situation and allow the Special Rapporteur to visit.
The representative of Burundi, associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement, rejected all country‑specific resolutions and stressed the importance of dialogue.
The representative of Belarus reiterated her opposition to country‑specific resolutions as they have “no real use” and only create barriers. Recalling the Universal Periodic Review as the instrument for a balanced analysis of human rights situations, she said she will not support the draft resolution and disassociated from consensus.
The representative of Singapore expressed her disagreement with country‑specific resolutions, which are highly divisive. She will abstain from voting on all such texts.
The representative of Iran deplored the continuation of counterproductive, selective country‑specific resolutions, which contravened the principle of universality. The Universal Periodic Review provides a proper mechanism to address such issues “without naming and shaming” and he disassociated from the draft.
The representative of the Russian Federation noted his opposition to selective and one‑sided resolutions on human rights situations, which only exacerbate confrontations. The Universal Periodic Review provides new opportunities to establish dialogue, he said, disassociating from any consensus which may be achieved on the draft resolution.
The representative of Myanmar, stressing the Universal Periodic Review is the most adequate instrument to address human rights issues, said his country rejects country‑specific resolutions. There is no one‑size‑fits‑all solution to such problems and he called for genuine dialogue and cooperation to foster the promotion of human rights without politicization.
The representative of China, emphasizing that differences on human rights should be resolved on the basis of equality and respect, said his country opposes country‑specific human rights resolutions. China disassociates itself from the consensus on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of Bolivia, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, rejected the instrumentalization of the Third Committee to favour the political interests of some States to the detriment of others. The Committee must not become a platform used to impose political agendas, she said, underscoring the fundamental role of the Human Rights Council and expressing support for all its recommendations.
The representative of Venezuela rejected the selective adoption of resolutions on specific countries, as it violates the principles of universality, non‑selectiveness and objectivity. The Universal Periodic Review should be prioritized as the ideal instrument to address human rights, he said, dissociating himself from any consensus on this resolution.
The representative of Sudan, introducing an amendment, expressed regret that some try to refer to the International Criminal Court in draft resolutions without any organic relation between its inclusion and the topic of discussion. This has led to polarization, especially as some countries link their humanitarian assistance and cooperation with countries’ views on the Court. The International Criminal Court would not be able to conduct a meaningful judicial process due to its flagrant selectivity. It unduly targets African leaders and it has caused conflicts to worsen in some developing countries, he added, urging delegates to vote in favour of the amendment.
The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said there are numerous violations of humanitarian law and human rights that serve as reminders of the Court’s relevance. Recalling that the Court’s role is to supplement rather than replace nation judicial bodies, he said peace and justice are complementary. He called on delegates to defeat the amendment.
The representative of Liechtenstein, speaking on behalf of five countries, said operative paragraph 12 has been consensus language for years. The Court has a key role to play in preventing impunity where national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. It is a “cornerstone of the rule of law architecture”, he said, urging delegates to vote against the amendment.
The Committee then rejected the amendment by a recorded vote of 91 against to 22 in favour, with 44 abstentions, which would have called on the Assembly to delete operative paragraph 12 of the resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (document A/C.3/73/L.40*).
The representative of Japan, recalling that the draft resolution has received wide, strong international support, urged delegates to adopt it by consensus.
The representative of Sudan said his country fully and unequivocally subscribes to the draft resolution’s objectives but opposes the Court’s jurisdiction. The danger it represents is increasingly recognized. He disassociated Sudan from the consensus on the draft resolution.
The Committee then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would express concern at the precarious humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which could rapidly deteriorate, and urge the Government to take preventive and remedial action, cooperating with international donor agencies and in accordance with international standards for monitoring humanitarian assistance. It would urge the Government to respect all human rights and end the systematic, widespread and grave violations by implementing measures set out in relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council, as well as recommendations addressed to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Human Rights Council in the context of the Universal Periodic Review and by the Commission of Inquiry, the United Nations special procedures and treaty bodies.
The representative of Cuba disassociated from the consensus, invoking his country’s positions against the imposition of selective and politically motivated mandates and resolutions. The draft seeks to protect the Security Council’s power to impose sanctions in situations that do not threaten international peace and security.
The representative of Viet Nam reiterated his opposition to country‑specific resolutions and stressed the need to foster dialogue, notably through the Universal Periodic Review. He condemned the practice of kidnapping.
The representative of the United States, citing the fact‑finding mission’s report, said the regime in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is among the worst human rights abusers. With this resolution, the international community will send a strong message that violations should stop.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (document A/C.3/73/L.42).
The representative of Canada, introducing the draft, said reports of the Secretary‑General and Special Rapporteur reveal further deterioration of Iran’s human rights situation. Citing systematic crackdowns on journalists and social media users, as well as discrimination against women and girls, and violations of freedom of expression both online and offline, he said the result of open and constructive negotiations is to be factual and balanced. Noting an oral amendment to operative paragraph 17, he said every country faces challenges in meeting human rights obligations, including Canada. However, the situation compels the Committee not to remain silent and he encouraged all States to support the draft.
The representative of Iran said “human rights have no greater adversary than those who abuse them against nations they dislike. For them, victims are not equal.” On 7 November 2018, the United States Secretary of State threatened all Iranians, he said, recalling that weaponizing food and medicine against civilians is a crime against humanity. The dichotomy also applies to democracy; elections in enemy States are considered rigged. “Interference is fine, as long as it is conducted by the powerful and their henchmen”, he said, calling the United States “the worst enemy” of democracy and human rights in the Middle East. Hundreds of social media accounts which expose Israel’s crimes were closed by the United States. In Canada, democracy has been highjacked and violence against women is a systematic problem. Iran has never advocated racial supremacy and will never give up its quest for dignity. The political charade of United Nations decisions is becoming dangerous for those on the ground, he said, underscoring Iran’s belief in dialogue and respect.
The representative of Syria reiterated his rejection of politicizing human rights, noting flagrant double standards. “It is ironic that certain States submit politicized resolutions”, he said, recalling that the United States left the nuclear agreement. Stressing that confrontation and hostility do not achieve common objectives enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, he cited the principle of national sovereignty and non‑interference. Human rights issues are employed to weaken credibility of Member States, he said, calling the draft resolution a waste of time. He will vote against it and encouraged others to follow suit.
The representative of the Russian Federation in a general statement underscored the counterproductive nature of country‑specific resolutions, as they have nothing to do with defending human rights. The Russian Federation will vote against the draft.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, associating with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed opposition to country‑specific resolutions, as they have nothing to do with protecting human rights and only cause confrontation. Every country has the sovereign right to maintain a political system of its own choice, he said, citing the Universal Periodic Review. He rejected the draft and will vote against it, he said.
The representative of Venezuela reaffirmed its principle of rejecting country‑specific resolutions, thus rejecting selectivity. This practice has no remit under the Committee. The Universal Periodic Review is ideal for tackling human rights issues. As such, he will vote against the draft.
The representative of Pakistan, in explanation of vote, reiterated that promoting human rights is a shared responsibility, stressing the importance of the Universal Periodic Review as the main intergovernmental mechanism to review human rights at the national level.
The representative of Brazil expressed concern about allegations of rights violations, advocating further steps. Brazil will abstain in the vote, as it did last year.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said Iranians suffer under a regime which does not respect human rights, denies freedoms and persecutes religious minorities. He cited killings, detentions and executions, noting that the Ahwaz had not received fair trials. He stressed the importance of voting for the draft resolution, noting that countries have the sovereign right to determine their penal codes. Iran will deviate from all facts before the Committee, he said. “They cannot face the truth”.
The representative of Belarus opposed country‑specific resolutions as they undermine objectivity and reinforce confrontation, highlighting the Universal Periodic Review as a useful instrument to conduct a balanced analysis. He will vote against the draft.
The representative of Mexico noted Iran’s significant human rights challenges and its great will to tackle them. Such efforts cannot be ignored. Mexico has abstained from the resolution over the last three years, but remains concerned about arbitrary detentions, persecution of religious minorities and violations of gender equality. He called on Iran to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noting that Mexico will again abstain from the resolution.
The representative of Cuba will vote against the text, citing his Government’s opposition to country‑specific resolutions. Maintaining the item on the agenda is a politically motivated decision. He called for halting this exercise and for promoting a respectful, constructive dialogue.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 85 in favour to 30 against, with 68 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would express serious concern, notwithstanding the reduction in the number of executions for drug‑related crimes, at the alarmingly high frequency of Iran’s imposition and carrying out of the death penalty, in violation of its international obligations. It would call on Iran to ensure, in law and in practice, that no one is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment — which may include sexual violence, and punishments that are grossly disproportionate to the nature of the offence.
The Assembly would further call on Iran to release persons detained for exercising their human rights; to consider rescinding unduly harsh sentences, including those involving the death penalty and long‑term internal exile; and to end reprisals against individuals, including for cooperating or attempting to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.
The representative of Japan said she voted in favour of the draft, as Tokyo and Tehran have been holding bilateral dialogues to improve the human rights situation and cooperation with international society. She cited a bill to protect adolescents and children to be approved by Iran’s Parliament.
The representative of Iran said Saudi Arabia’s representative should not lecture his country. Saudi Arabia has “killed any chance for democracy in the Middle East”, he said, calling Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) an offshoot of Saudi extremism, as only they would consider a bus full of children a legitimate target, behead peaceful opponents and label those not of like mind as infidels. Saudi Arabia is a well‑documented repressive bully and a corrupt oligarchy that is committing genocide in Yemen.
The representative of Nigeria underlined the importance of the Universal Periodic Review for addressing human rights issues. Nigeria abstains from country‑specific resolutions and will continue to do so, he said, cautioning against selectivity and politicization.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sebastopol, Ukraine” (document A/C.3/73/L.48).
The representative of Ukraine, introducing the draft on behalf of several countries, said the situation in temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories and the city of Sebastopol continues to deteriorate. Outlining various violations that took place in that region, he said the Russian Federation has ignored numerous resolutions adopted by international bodies — 12 of which by this Committee — that sought to protect human rights. The occupying Power is trying to force residents to support it by using blackmail, intimidation and deportation.
The representative of Syria rejected the draft because it seeks to target the Russian Federation for reasons that have nothing to do with human rights or this Committee’s mandate. It is regrettable that some try to compete with the Human Rights Council by unduly tabling draft resolutions in New York about matters that should be discussed in Geneva, he said, adding that Syria will vote against the text.
The representative of the United States said her country does not recognize the Russian Federation’s purported annexation of Crimea. That country’s tactics reportedly have included extrajudicial killings, physical abuse, torture and deportation, she stated. Nearly all independent media and civil society have had to flee the peninsula, and those that remain operate at great risk. The situation calls for continued scrutiny by the Third Committee and the General Assembly.
The representative of Denmark strongly supports the resolution because there are no signs of improvement in the region. The lack of due process and fair trial, sexual violence, arbitrary detention and torture are particularly concerning, he said, calling for the full and unhindered access of human rights mechanisms to all of Ukraine.
The representative of Georgia said the situation is alarming because these territories continue to suffer great violations of human rights. Condemning the occupation, he stressed that the occupying Power has the responsibility to guarantee the human rights of the citizens of the territory under its control. He urged others to uphold human rights and the United Nations Charter.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the draft resolution is another attempt by some countries to use Ukraine — which is torn by internal conflicts — to lob false accusations at his country. Human rights are the last topic that interests authorities in Kiev, he said, stressing that the draft’s authors falsely present the situation in Crimea as an armed conflict despite the fact that no one in the Russian Federation intends to wage war against Ukrainians, their “ethnic brethren”. The Republic of Crimea and the city of Sebastopol are Russian regions, and they are thriving, he assured, urging delegates to vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of Azerbaijan, making a general statement, said his country supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders. He called for the settlement of all conflicts through political dialogue, in line with international law.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country opposes country‑specific resolutions, which do nothing to genuinely promote and protect human rights. The Universal Periodic Review is the appropriate mechanism to assess the situation in all States on an equal basis, he stated.
The representative of Venezuela said selectivity in addressing human rights issues violates the United Nations Charter. Expressing support for the position of the Non‑Aligned Movement, he urged that the Universal Periodic Review must be prioritized. He will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of Belarus reiterated her country’s position of principle: human rights issues should not be politicized. Given that country‑specific resolutions create artificial barriers to constructive dialogue between concerned parties, Belarus will vote against this draft resolution.
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of vote, said counterproductive recriminations and “blame games” hinder mutual respect and cooperation. The selective adoption of country‑specific resolutions contradicts the principles of universality, non‑selectivity and objectivity. Iran will therefore vote against the draft.
The Committee then adopted the draft resolution “L.48” by a recorded vote of 67 in favour to 26 against, with 82 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would urge the Russian Federation to uphold all its obligations under international law as an occupying Power; take all measures necessary to bring an immediate end to all violations and abuses against residents of Crimea; revoke all discriminatory legislation; and hold accountable those responsible for those violations. It would also call on the Russian Federation to ensure the proper and unimpeded access of international human rights monitoring missions and human rights non‑governmental organizations to Crimea, including all places where persons may be deprived of their liberty, recognizing that the international presence in Crimea is of paramount importance in preventing further deterioration of the situation.
The representative of Singapore recalled that his country has always taken a stance against country‑specific resolutions. Therefore, his vote should not be construed as a stance on the draft resolution’s substance, he stated, stressing that Singapore’s position on Crimea remains unchanged. He called on all Member States to promote and protect human rights.
The representative of Argentina said her country shares the concerns expressed by the Human Rights Commissionner pertaining to the Tatars. She urged the protection and respect of human rights of all inhabitants of the region.
The representative of Switzerland said her country shares the concerns expressed by the sponsors and co‑sponsors and therefore voted in favour of the resolution. However, she stressed that all parties must fulfill their obligations and implement the High Commissioner’s recommendations to guarantee the human rights of every individual in Crimea. It is regrettable that the draft resolution is unbalanced.
The representative of Hungary said that while having voted in favour of the draft, it fails to address Ukraine’s commitment to protect minority rights. She expressed concern about minorities’ right to receive education in their mother tongue. She called on Ukraine to respect the fundamental rights of minorities living under its jurisidiction.
The representative of Burundi denounced the politicization of human rights, the use of double standards in their assessment, and the use of the Third Committee for political motives.
The representative of Ukraine, making a general statement, said the Second World War did not last four years, but rather seven years, contrary to what the representative of the Russian Federation stated while comparing it to the situation in Crimea.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.3/73/L.50).
The representative of Saudi Arabia, introducing the draft, said Syrians continue to suffer, yet they have not “thrown in the towel” in the face of Hezbollah. He denounced the displacement of 6 million people abroad, and condemned all violations, whatever their source. This resolution calls for the withdrawal of all terrorists and foreign forces in Syria. It calls for dealing with chemical weapons, and cautions against using famine as a weapon of war. This resolution is offered on behalf of all the children who have suffocated under toxic agents, the elderly whose property has been confiscated, women who have been raped by gangs, as well as martyrs, prisoners, the kidnapped and the disappeared.
The representative of Syria said the political surrealism just heard was “astonishing” and that his colleague standing virtuous is “like Father Christmas, offering illusions to children in their beds”. His counterpart from Saudi Arabia must believe he is “the Ambassador of the Syrian people”. He reiterated Syria’s commitment to Syria, and rejection of all that the draft resolution proposes in its operative and preambular paragraphs. The draft is a political resolution “par excellence” and a sign of flagrant double standards meant to boost the morale of terrorist organizations. Moreover, several co‑sponsors violate human rights in Syria through war crimes and occupation, either directly through coalitions or the financing of activities. Silence is complicity. He called on delegates to vote against or abstain from the draft, as it is a hostile act against Syria.
The representative of Iran, on procedural grounds, requested a vote on operative paragraph 31, which grants a new mandate to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, without a reference to a main committee. Such work is not within the Third Committee’s purview, he said, citing rule 97 of the Assembly’s rules of procedure that committees shall not introduce new items on their own initiative. He urged others to vote against its inclusion in the draft.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said both speakers were creating confusion and doubt. The paragraph mentioned does not commit anybody or create interference.
The representative of Liechtenstein said that there is no reason for the concern raised by Iran’s delegate, as paragraph 31 does not refer the prevention of armed conflict to the Third Committee. It only asks for the submission of a report.
The representative of Syria said the operational paragraph on which Iran’s delegate requested the vote does not entail any immediate budget implications. However, it will entail financial implications in 2020, which is what the Secretary clarified in his recent statement. This issue will cost $20 million, which will be paid by Member States.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said the discussion has turned from surrealism into drama.
The Secretary cited the Assembly’s rule 121, which, subject to rule 119, indicates the sequence of action. He asked Iran’s delegate if it was his intention to call a vote on one or two paragraphs.
The representative of Iran said he wished to call a vote on paragraph 31, with the understanding that addressing the prevention of armed conflict is out of the Third Committee’s purview.
The representative of Syria said that, according to the Secretary‑General’s letter, the Mechanism, from 2019, will cost $19,600. He thus supported Iran’s request for a vote on operational paragraph 31.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said the $20 million cost relates to the establishment of the Mechanism. The paragraph before the Committee merely requests a report. No report could cost that amount of money.
The Secretary clarified that delegates will vote on the Committee’s competence to approve paragraph 31. It is not a direct vote on the said paragraph.
Following comments by the representatives of Guatemala and the United States, the Secretary again clarified that delegates believing the Committee had the competence to approve paragraph 31 would vote “yes”; those who do not would vote “no”.
By a recorded vote of 88 in favour to 13 against, with 48 abstentions, the Committee approved the measure, and thus, accepted its competence to take action on paragraph 31 of draft resolution “L.50”.
The representative of the Russian Federation, making a general statement, said his country resists efforts to transform the Committee into a body that rubber‑stamps country‑specific resolutions. This flawed practice is undergirded by baseless accusations against Syria. The draft’s authors have outdone themselves by requesting that the Committee manage a mechanism on human rights, which falls outside its remit. Adoption of this draft resolution would undermine international efforts to stabilize the situation in Syria, he stated, urging delegates to vote against it.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, in a point of order, said there is no justification to suspend the meeting now.
The Chair said he still has four or five speakers on his list. Further, the interpreters must leave.
The representative of Saudi Arabia replied that some delegations’ obstructionist manoeuvres should not be rewarded.
The Chair said he did not obtain the interpreters’ agreement to continue the meeting. Interpretation being mandatory for formal meetings, he must adjourn until Friday, 16 November.