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Third Committee Approves 7 Drafts on Human Rights in Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as Delegates Denounce ‘Intrusive’ Demands

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Representatives of Syria, Russian Federation Stress Country-Specific Focus Does Nothing to Advance Conditions on Ground The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) sent seven draft resolutions to the General Assembly today, five of which were focused on country-specific situations and subject to heated debate.

A draft resolution on human rights in Iran — approved by a recorded vote of 79 in favour to 32 against, with 64 abstentions — would have the General Assembly express serious concern at the alarmingly high frequency of death penalty imposition, particularly against minors. It would call on Iran to ensure that no one is subjected to torture — or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment — and to end the widespread and systematic use of arbitrary arrests and detention, including the practice of enforced disappearance.

Iran’s representative said that tabling a politically motivated draft resolution reflects the destructive behaviour of those who manipulate human rights issues. “These false preachers” are acting as willing accomplices to economic terrorism waged by the United States against civilians in Iran, he said, denouncing the unlawful unilateral coercive measures imposed on his country.

In their explanations of position on the text — and throughout the day — many delegations broadly rejected the use of country-specific resolutions, with Cuba’s representative noting that they are “only used against developing countries.” This punitive approach does nothing to advance human rights. In a similar vein, the representative of the Russian Federation said country-specific resolutions “have nothing to do with the protection of human rights” and only undermine the principle of State sovereignty. Burundi’s representative likewise characterized them as “counterproductive”.

After a contentious debate on the draft resolution concerning human rights in Syria, the Committee approved the text by a recorded vote of 99 in favour to 13 against, with 61 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would strongly condemn the systematic, widespread and gross violations of international human rights law in Syria and indiscriminate attacks against civilians. It would condemn, in the strongest terms, violence by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people since the beginning of peaceful protests in 2011, demanding that it implement Security Council resolutions 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015) and 2286 (2016). The Assembly also would urge Member States to create conditions for a political solution, under United Nations auspices, by working towards a nationwide ceasefire.

Speaking out against the draft, Syria’s delegate said the United States “has neither the legal nor moral authority” to put forward a draft supposedly on human rights while taking measures — such as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act — that deprive Syrians of food and medicine. The United States has spent billions of dollars training and sheltering extremist groups, which “kill anything that moves” and plunder Syrian natural resources. He also pointed to Turkey’s exploitation of other Muslim countries in the region, and Saudi Arabia’s leadership of a coalition that violates the human rights of Yemenis.

In other action, the Committee turned to human rights conditions in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, approving the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 63 in favour to 22 against, with 85 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would condemn all attempts by the Russian Federation to legitimize or normalize its attempted annexation of Crimea, including the automatic imposition of Russian citizenship on protected persons and changes to the democratic structure of the population. It would also strongly condemn the Russian Federation’s disregard for its legal responsibility for the occupied territory, including to respect Ukrainian law.

Ukraine’s delegate urged the Russian Federation to end prosecutions and other reprisals against Crimean residents for peaceful manifestations of their religious beliefs, and to allow the Monitoring Mission access to Crimea. The Russian Federation’s representative meanwhile called those comments defamatory and “based on fantasy”. The people of Crimea exercised their right to self‑determination with a free election that respected international standards, he said, recalling Kiev’s halt to energy supplies to 175 settlements, where almost half the population lives, during the winter of 2015.

Turning to Myanmar, the Committee approved the draft resolution on human rights conditions there by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 9 against (Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe), with 31 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly would express grave concern at reports of serious rights violations by the military and security forces against the Rohingya, notably in Kachin, Rakhine, southern Chin and Shan States, leading to the forced displacement of more than 860,000 Rohingya and other minorities to Bangladesh.

In response, Myanmar’s delegate called the draft “intrusive” in pushing his country to follow “illegitimate demands”. Its sponsors “conveniently ignore” coordinated attacks perpetrated by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. He denounced the illegitimate pressure exerted on Myanmar and accused the penholders of “fanning the flames”.

In one of only two displays of consensus, the Committee approved a draft resolution on human rights conditions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, by which the Assembly would condemn, in the strongest terms, the systematic, widespread and gross violations by its authorities. Among other abuses, it would express very serious concern about persistent reports of torture and sexual and gender-based violence.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea categorically rejected the draft as “cooked-up political slander” written by “hostile forces”. The “forcible adoption of this resolution constitutes a hostile policy aimed at overthrowing our system,” he warned.

Also approved by consensus was a draft on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. The draft resolution on combating glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism was approved by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 2 against (United States, Ukraine), with 53 abstentions.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 19 November, to continue its work.