Representatives of Belarus, Syria Call Universal Periodic Review Best Format
For Addressing Human Rights, while Canada, United States Say Other Tools Needed
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved five draft resolutions today, all of which focused on country-specific situations and were subject to lively and contentious debate.
A draft resolution on human rights in Iran — approved by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 30 against, with 66 abstentions — would have the General Assembly call upon that country to ensure that no one is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, either in law or in practice. It would urge Iran to cease the widespread use of arbitrary arrests and detention, release persons detained for the exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and end serious restrictions on the right to free expression and opinion.
Iran’s representative said that tabling the resolution only exposes the dishonesty and hypocrisy of some Member States who themselves have “the darkest human rights records”, including Canada, referring to the genocide visited upon its First Nations population. Furthermore, as the draft resolution’s “arm twister”, the United States has subjected the people of Iran to economic terrorism, he said.
Several countries broadly rejected the use of country-specific resolutions, with the delegate from Belarus noting that they create “artificial barriers” to reconciliation. Instead, States should use the Human Rights Council universal periodic review, which is the most effective mechanism for measuring compliance with human rights standards. The Russian Federation’s representative said country-specific resolutions have nothing to do with human rights and that the international community should instead engage in respectful dialogue. In a similar vein, Cuba’s delegate said the presence of the topic on the Committee’s agenda is driven by political interests, not genuine concern.
In other action, the Committee approved the draft resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar by a recorded vote of 140 in favour to 9 against (Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe), with 32 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would express grave concern at continuing reports of serious human rights violations — as well as violations of international humanitarian law — in Myanmar, against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, including those involving arbitrary arrests, deaths in detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It would call upon Myanmar — in particular its security and armed forces — to immediately end all violence and ensure the protection of the human rights of all persons in Myanmar, including Rohingya Muslims and persons belonging to other minorities.
Speaking out against the draft, Myanmar’s delegate said it “grossly mischaracterized” the situation in Rakhine State. The issue is not one of religious persecution, but rather a complex political and economic situation involving a variety of factors, including poverty and cross-border migration.
Several delegates pointed to other instruments that are being used to address the situation in Myanmar, with Canada’s delegate highlighting that Gambia recently requested the International Court of Justice to instigate proceedings against the Government of Myanmar. Liechtenstein’s delegate, while welcoming mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council and General Assembly, said the draft fails to note that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court decided to open a case on the enforced deportation of the Rohingya people. It also fails to recall the Security Council’s authority to refer the situation to the Court. She deplored these omissions, as they were part of draft resolutions approved on previous occasions.
In other notable action, the Committee turned its attention to the human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, approving the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 67 in favour to 23 against, with 82 abstentions.
By its terms, the General Assembly would deplore the failure of the Russian Federation to comply with its repeated requests and demands, as well as with the International Court of Justice order of 19 April 2017. It would also strongly condemn the total disregard by the Russian Federation of its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law regarding its legal responsibility for the occupied territory, including to respect Ukrainian law and the rights of all civilians.
Ukraine’s delegate condemned the widespread rights violations in occupied Crimea and expressed regret that the Russian Federation has ignored other related resolutions and decisions taken by the international community. Meanwhile, murder, torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and the persecution of journalists and human rights defenders continued unabated.
In turn, the Russian Federation’s representative rejected accusations against his country levelled by the resolution, noting that Crimea’s population exercised its right to self-determination in a democratic vote. As such, Sevastopol has been integrated into the Russian Federation’s legal and economic space and discussions around the reunification of the peninsula are irrelevant.
The Committee also approved a text, by consensus, on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. By its terms, the Assembly would condemn ongoing violations in and by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including those that may amount to crimes against humanity. It would also condemn the systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons, on a large scale and as a matter of State policy. It would also express concern at the humanitarian situation, which could deteriorate due to limited resilience to natural disasters and to Government policies causing limits on the availability of and access to adequate food.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the draft, noting that it was “cooked up by hostile forces” and grossly distorts the human rights situation in his country.
After a fiery debate on the draft resolution concerning human rights in Syria, the Committee approved that text by a recorded vote of 106 in favour to 15 against, with 58 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would urgently request a high-level panel discussion — led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry and Syrian civil society — to brief its seventy-fifth session. It would also call for significant enhancement of the verification measures of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and welcome the establishment and operationalization of that body’s Investigation and Identification Team, which is authorized to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons use.
Syria’s delegate, rejecting the draft resolution, said not only had the Committee violated the rules of procedure by considering the draft resolution — despite its late submission by the co-sponsors — but that those same co-sponsors also lack the necessary “ethical qualifications to submit draft resolutions on the human rights situation in any country whatsoever”. The misuse of human rights mechanisms by countries like the United States will “turn the United Nations into the non-united Nations”, he warned.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 15 November, to take further action on draft resolutions.
The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled concerns raised in the Movement’s eighteenth meeting in October in Baku, about the practice of country-specific resolutions in the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council, which exploit human rights, undermine cooperation and do not adhere to the principles of non-selectivity and universality. The universal periodic review is the appropriate mechanism for such issues, she said, as it fosters a constructive and action-oriented intergovernmental relationship, involves the countries in question and addresses their capacity-building needs. She reiterated the Movement’s “dismay” over country-specific resolutions, condemning them for infringing on the full enjoyment of rights. “All human rights are interdependent and interrelated”, she said, emphasizing the need for a non‑confrontational, non-selective approach that respects countries’ social particularities and sovereignty.
The Committee first turned to the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (document A/C.3/74/L.26*).
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced the draft, recalling that there is no proof that the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has improved. Universally accepted freedoms continue to be denied, State-operated prisons and camps have not been closed and families are not being informed about the whereabouts of their relatives. This very concerning human rights situation calls for international action, he said, stressing the vital importance of information and evidence gathering, as well as professionalism in any future accountability process. People in need of humanitarian assistance should not be abandoned. He called for continued support for the Special Rapporteur to ensure the genuine commitment of authorities to improve the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of the United States, recalling the grave human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the commission of inquiry details human rights violations, describing them as systematic, widespread and gross. Pointing to persecution on political, gender and other grounds, as well as enforced disappearances, she urged the country to honour its universal periodic review commitments and to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. She referred to the 7 November statement by her country on references to the International Criminal Court.
The representative of Singapore, in a general statement, said his country does not agree with country-specific resolutions, as they are driven by political rather than human rights motivations, and inherently divisive. They should be addressed by the universal periodic review, as the Human Rights Council was created specifically to tackle such issues. As a matter of principle, Singapore will abstain from all country-specific resolutions, a decision that should not be interpreted as taking a position on the substance of the draft resolutions presented.
The representative of Japan recalled that during the 1970s and 1980s, many Japanese citizens were abducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a matter of grave concern affecting the sovereignty and safety of Japan. Welcoming the reference to abductions in the reports of the Special Rapporteur and Secretary‑General, he said families are desperately awaiting the return of their relatives. Victims have waited decades to be rescued. Japan strongly urges the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to accept the views of the international community expressed in the resolution, to take action to resolve the abduction issue and to immediately return all abductees, in cooperation with the international community.
The representative of China reiterated his country’s consistent position against politicizing human rights and exerting pressure, and thus disassociated from the draft.
The representative of Nicaragua, in a general statement, rejected country-specific resolutions, advocating instead for dialogue and cooperation over foreign intervention or politicization of human rights. The universal periodic review is the appropriate mechanism for addressing such issues, as it is based on such principles as non-selectivity.
The representative of Venezuela, in a general statement, rejected the practice of selectivity for politically motivated purposes, stressing that cooperation and dialogue are appropriate means for resolving issues. He expressed support for the ongoing appeal of the Non-Aligned Movement on the matter, as the practice of country-specific resolutions violates the principles of universality, non-selectivity and objectivity. Venezuela favours the universal periodic review as the appropriate forum for addressing human rights, and he thus disassociated from consensus on all such resolutions.
The representative of Myanmar opposed country-specific resolutions, calling the universal periodic review the most efficient instrument for tackling human rights issues and avoiding the use of double standards.
The representative of Burundi, associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said her country stands against country-specific resolutions, as they are politicized, selective and counterproductive. As such, they do not improve human rights situations. Burundi will oppose all resolutions on country-specific issues to be considered today.
The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic said the universal periodic review is the only appropriate mechanism for addressing human rights on an equal footing. He rejected country-specific approaches to human rights and called for a non-politicized, constructive approach.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his country has repeatedly rejected selective, one-sided resolutions on human rights situations in specific countries, as the approach is ineffective and only exacerbates tensions. The United Nations has a well-established platform to tackle human rights issues — the universal periodic review — and he thus called for mutually constructive dialogue and disassociated the Russian Federation from consensus on draft resolution “L.26”.
The representative of Syria objected to the use of human rights to target specific States for political purposes, in order to destabilize them, while the crimes of other States are ignored. Such resolutions have no relation to the Charter, human values or indeed to human rights. He rejected the politicization of human rights and dealing with such issues from the perspective of double standards. Syria will vote against the draft resolution, he said, urging all delegations to do the same.
The representative of Iran said the universal periodic review provides a functioning mechanism to address human rights on an equal basis, without naming and shaming. He rejected the confrontational practice of presenting country-specific resolutions, underscoring the importance of such principles as universality, non-selectivity and objectivity, and disassociating Iran from draft resolution “L.26”.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the draft resolution, as it has nothing to do with the protection and promotion of human rights; it is only politicization. All material contained in the draft is false and “cooked up by hostile forces”, he said. It grossly distorts the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and is not worth discussion. The main sponsors are countries that have committed human rights violations, he said, stressing that Japan’s “extra-large crime against humanity” committed during the occupation of Korea — including the use of 200,000 sexual slaves — remains unresolved. Reaffirming the importance of dialogue, he rejected the confrontational approach outlined in the draft, as well as all country-specific human rights resolutions.
Draft resolution “L.26” was then approved without a vote.
The representative of Belarus opposed country-specific topics at the United Nations, which do not benefit anyone and only create artificial barriers to dialogue. The universal periodic review allows for the balanced consideration of human rights in every country, and as such, Belarus disassociates from consensus on the text.
The representative of Cuba disassociated from consensus on the draft, as his country is against selective resolutions with mandates that are politically motivated. Only international cooperation based on objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity is the appropriate way to protect the human rights of all people.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (document A/C.3/74/L.27), which the Chair said contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Canada, presenting the draft, said some Member States are uncomfortable with country-specific resolutions and question their validity. Each country faces challenges in meeting its human rights obligations and Canada is no exception. “We recognize our problems, past and present,” he said. However, there are certain situations that merit the attention, among them, that in Iran. The draft resolution is based on credible information from reports of the Secretary‑General, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran and other reliable sources. While acknowledging positive steps taken by Iran, including a reduction in the total number of executions, he said the human rights situation has not improved in a number of areas. The sentencing to death and execution of juvenile offenders persists, with at least nine children killed since 2018. Discrimination against women and girls, ethnic minorities, members of recognized and unrecognized religious minorities and other vulnerable groups continues. The ongoing harassment of journalists and other media workers is unacceptable. He expressed regret that meaningful progress has yet to be made in relation to issues raised in the universal periodic review. As such, the Committee must make use of other available tools, such as the resolution, which he expressed hope would spur Iran to take action against human rights violations in its territory.
The Chair said that a recorded vote has been requested.
The representative of the United States, in a general statement, expressed grave concern over Iran’s grave suppression of human rights, notably over use of the death penalty against minors, and called for an end to serious restrictions on free assembly, speech and expression. The resolution calls on Iran to launch an accountability process for human rights violations. The United States will vote “yes” on this resolution, she said, and encouraged others to do likewise.
The representative of Iran, in explanation of vote, said that this is an occasion in which the subject of human rights has been exploited by countries that could not care less about them. It is another episode that exposes dishonesty and hypocrisy among certain players “with the darkest human rights records”, he said, referring to the genocide experienced by the First Nations people in Canada. The current despair of indigenous people in Canada and Canada’s unconditional support of Israel’s apartheid “do not let bygones be bygones”. He asked how Canada can reconcile its contradictory behaviour. He rejected the hypocrisy embedded in Canada’s political system, stressing that Iran’s quest for human rights has consistently been assaulted by the proponents of the resolution. His people suffer from economic terrorism waged by the text’s “arm twister” — the United States. On 8 November, Iran presented its national report to the third cycle of the universal periodic review in Geneva, where many countries welcomed its outstanding human rights achievements. Unlike the proponents of the resolution, Iran continues to call for dialogue and mutual respect, and advocates for multilateralism and international law. The resolution is a purely politicized and counterproductive move, and he called on all delegations to deny double standards and other opportunities to abuse human rights.
The representative of Syria rejected the politicization of human rights issues, pointing to the political intentions of countries presenting country-specific drafts. Syria refuses to address human rights through double standards, from a belief in diplomacy, dialogue and non-interference in internal State affairs — principles to be upheld in efforts to resolve disputes and guarantee the primacy of international law.
The representative of Venezuela reaffirmed its position regarding resolutions relating to specific countries, rejecting the practice of selective treatment borne from politically motivated aims that contravene the Charter of the United Nations. Venezuela will vote against the draft.
The representative of Brazil pointed to progress made by Iran and its willingness to move towards becoming a more just, tolerant society. However, of particular concern is the continued application of capital punishment for a variety of offences, including for crimes committed by legal minors. Thus, Brazil will abstain from the vote.
The representative of Pakistan, speaking in explanation of vote, said States have the primary responsibility to protect their citizens. External interference in the form of country-specific resolutions can be counterproductive. Recalling Iran’s cooperation with a number of bodies, including treaty bodies, he said such positive attitudes must be encouraged. Pakistan will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of China, welcoming Iran’s progress on human rights issues, stressed the need for dialogue based on mutual respect. China opposes using human rights to pressure countries, including through country-specific human rights resolutions, and thus will vote against the draft.
The representative of Belarus said his country has always opposed country-specific resolutions, which do not benefit anyone, but instead create artificial barriers. The United Nations has an effective mechanism for measuring human rights — the universal periodic review — and for such reasons, Belarus will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of the Russian Federation said it is counterproductive to adopt country-specific resolutions, as they have nothing to do with human rights. Instead, the international community should seek to involve countries in respectful dialogue, as patronizing attitudes have never facilitated improvements. The Russian Federation will vote against the draft.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea opposed country-specific resolutions as politicized. They foster double standards, have nothing to do with the protection of human rights, cause confrontation and hinder constructive dialogue and cooperation. He will vote against the draft.
The representative of Cuba said his country will vote against the draft resolution on principle, as maintaining the situation in Iran on the agenda is motivated by political interests, rather than a genuine concern or interest in cooperating on this matter.
The representative of Burundi rejected the practice of singling out specific countries, which serves to politicize human rights issues. Human rights should be strengthened by adhering to the principles of dialogue and mutual respect. She will vote against the draft resolution.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.27” by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 30 against, with 66 abstentions.
The representative of Japan, speaking in explanation of vote, said Iran is cooperating with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and some progress has been made. Japan voted in favour because it expects to see further developments regarding the human rights situation.
The representative of Israel said the resolution merely states some of the facts regarding human rights in Iran today. Many other troubling issues are not included, notably related to refugees and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in Iran. The latter group faces punishment simply for being who they are, he said.
The representative of Zimbabwe said her country does not condone human rights violations. However, she voted against the draft, as Zimbabwe does not support country-specific reports or resolutions, and called for constructive engagement.
The Committee then turned to the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” (document A/C.3/74/L.28).
The representative of Ukraine, introducing the draft resolution, expressed regret that the Russian Federation has not implemented — and ignored — resolutions and decisions taken by international organizations and United Nations bodies, including three previous Third Committee resolutions. The first Secretary‑General report addresses severe violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law documented in Crimea. Citing persistent patterns of abuse — murder, torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, persecution of journalists and human rights defenders — he condemned widespread human rights violations in occupied Crimea. The number of raids against Crimean Tatars doubled compared to the same period last year, he said, while the occupying Power is trying to make local residents and the indigenous people loyal to its regime through intimidation and abuse.
Recalling that under international humanitarian law, the occupying Power must not deport or transfer its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, he noted that between 2014 and 2018, 140,198 people changed their residency registration, from regions of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Crimea or the city of Sevastopol. In particular, the report highlights that the Russian Federation promotes policies and conducts practices aimed at changing the demographic structure in Crimea. Russian occupying authorities do not limit themselves to individual persecutions, he said, pointing to suppression of the Mejlis — the representative body of the Crimean Tatars. Taken together, information received from the reports of the Secretary‑General, the OHCHR and non-governmental human rights organizations all points to a pattern of systematic violations that are well planned and coordinated, he asserted.
The representative of Estonia expressed strong support for the resolution and for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Not recognizing the occupation of the peninsula undermines the international legal framework, she said, expressing regret that the Russian Federation has not implemented any recommendations made in previous reports. Estonia is deeply concerned that the human rights situation in occupied Crimea has deteriorated. She underscored the right of people in that area to peaceful assembly and religion, urging the Russian Federation to stop the illegal persecution of Crimean Tatars and to release political prisoners. Recalling article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, she emphasized that international organizations must have access to Crimea.
The representative of Georgia expressed strong support for the draft, recalling that the Secretary‑General’s report demonstrates the continued failure of the Russian Federation, as an occupying Power, to protect a range of human rights. She expressed alarm that the population in Crimea continues to suffer from arbitrary detention, murder, enforced disappearance and other human rights abuses, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. She expressed concern over the “passportization” and subsequent expulsion of residents from the area. Unhindered and immediate access by the OHCHR to temporarily occupied areas of Ukraine is critical, she asserted, urging the Russian Federation to permit full access to those areas and to implement all recommendations in the OHCHR and Secretary-General reports. She expressed unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders. Georgia will vote in favour of the draft and she encouraged all delegations to do the same.
A recorded vote on draft resolution “L.28” was requested.
The representative of the Russian Federation, in a general statement, rejected accusations targeting his country in the draft resolution. No one in Crimea is shelling residential neighbourhoods, burning people alive — as in Odessa on 2 May — killing journalists, holding Nazi marches or prohibiting people from talking in their mother tongue. The population of Crimea has exercised its right to self-determination in a democratic vote. Any discussions around reunification of the peninsula are pointless. Sevastopol has been fully integrated into the Russian Federation’s legal and economic space. And yet, since 2014, the United States and European countries have implemented targeted sanctions intended to work against the peninsula’s population. Similarly, Ukraine over the last five years has acted outrageously, cutting electricity and water supply. Moreover, there are many distortions outlined in the draft, including abuses of military terminology, he asserted, pointing to Ukraine’s use of such terms as “annexation”, “occupation” and “aggression”. A “green” vote on the text will indicate that a country stands against the Russian Federation and is prepared to define relations as Kyiv wishes. “I urge you to seriously think about this,” he cautioned.
The representative of Azerbaijan said her country firmly opposes the acquisition of territory by use of force. The conflict in Ukraine must be resolved based on its sovereignty, in accordance with the Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. Stressing the importance of internationally recognized borders and respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, she called for the settlement of conflict through constructive dialogue, in line with international law.
The representative of Venezuela reaffirmed his country’s position on politically motivated country-specific resolutions, which violate the United Nations Charter. Recalling the principles of objectivity, non-selectivity and non-politicization, he said the universal periodic review represents a more efficient instrument for tackling human rights issues. Cooperation and dialogue are the appropriate ways to approach human rights issues, he said, noting that Venezuela will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of Syria rejected the draft as an attempt to target the Russian Federation for reasons that have no link to the promotion of human rights. This is a misuse of human rights mechanisms, he said, stressing that the Human Rights Council moved from excessive politicization to a more productive approach by establishing the universal periodic review. Producing more controversial reports only jeopardizes the responsibility of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security, he said, urging that all human rights issues be discussed exclusively in Geneva and noting that his delegation will vote against the draft.
The representative of Iran said the “naming and shaming” approach embodied in this and similar resolutions goes against dialogue and promotion of human rights. Country-specific texts aim to exert political pressure on parties, he said, underscoring that the persistence of such selective practices and exploitation of such issues for political aims contradicts the principle of non-politicization.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said country-specific resolutions are politicized and his delegation will vote against the text.
The representative of Ukraine, referring to comments by the Russian Federation’s delegate, said calling the Secretary‑General’s report “nonsense” is extremely disrespectful. The Russian Federation’s delegate also issued a direct threat to members of the Committee, which should not be left without action.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.28” by a recorded vote of 67 in favour to 23 against, with 82 abstentions.
The representative of Burundi, speaking in explanation of vote, said she voted against the draft, as it has nothing to do with human rights.
The representative of China said his country consistently opposes country-specific resolutions and thus voted against the draft.
The representative of Argentina called for respecting human rights in Crimea, in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, and for bringing perpetrators to justice.
The representative of Belarus said his country has consistently opposed country-specific approaches to human rights, and such resolutions only exacerbate confrontation. The Minsk agreements play a key role in resolving the conflict in Donbass, and he expressed hope for the swift resolution of that matter. He welcomed the agreement on an open-ended ceasefire and start of de-mining activities, as well as the prisoner exchange agreement and disengagement of forces, all of which bring peace closer to Ukrainian soil. Ongoing negotiations in the Trilateral Contact Group [Ukraine, Russian Federation, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe], among others, will create the conditions for talks in the Normandy format and take the peace process onto a stable track. Belarus will help create the conditions for dialogue in the Trilateral Contact Group, a goal that will be reached only through negotiations among interested parties. He voted against the draft.
The representative of Zimbabwe reiterated that her country is against country-specific resolutions, and as such voted against the draft.
The representative of Qatar, speaking in explanation of vote, said her country abstained, owing to its belief in peaceful dispute settlement through dialogue. Parties should be encouraged to work constructively towards a peaceful solution based on international law and the Charter, she said, citing the principles of non-use of force or threat thereof, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The representative of Singapore said her country is against country-specific resolutions, as they are politically motivated. However, that position should not be seen as a position on the substance of the draft resolution.
The Committee next turned to the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” (document A/C.3/74/L.29).
The Chair drew attention to a statement of programme budget implications prepared by the Secretariat in connection with the draft resolution (document A/C.3/74/L.68).
The representative of Saudi Arabia, introducing the draft, cited difficulties because some countries refuse the very principle of coexistence. The international community is currently observing practices by Myanmar’s authorities in the displacement and torture of Muslim minorities in that country. These violations persist. The draft resolution has attempted to be objective and balanced, welcoming positive steps taken and stressing the need for a decisive solution to the tragedy of Rohingya Muslims. The draft calls on the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to accelerate its operations and uncover rights violations, to establish independent conclusions in an objective manner, to encourage accountability and to present a documented report on the rights of Rohingya Muslims. He called on Myanmar to demonstrate genuine political goodwill to ensure the safe and sustainable return of refugees. The draft calls on the Government to review the 1982 Citizenship Law, which led to the denial of rights to minorities.
The representative of Switzerland voiced concern over allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity in Myanmar. Citing the central role of accountability in achieving peace in Myanmar, she said the draft does not mention the International Criminal Court in that context.
The representative of Turkey called the plight of Rohingya Muslims one of the world’s gravest tragedies. The draft reflects international expectations to find a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis. She commended Bangladesh for hosting such a high number of refugees. Myanmar should create conditions for the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas. Without holding perpetrators to account, ensuring the return of refugees and displaced persons will not be possible. Accountability is at the core of efforts to find lasting solutions. The situation should be before judicial bodies, she said, citing the International Court of Justice. She called on delegates to support the draft.
The representative of Myanmar said the draft resolution “grossly mischaracterized” the complex issue of Rakhine State, with the title itself a clear testimony to the true intent and biased attitude of its co-sponsors. The situation in Rakhine State is neither one of religious persecution nor of driving a community out of the country. It is a complicated political and economic issue involving cross-border migration, poverty, lack of rule of law and security. The draft will only cause further polarization and escalate tensions among religious communities. Myanmar shares concerns about the humanitarian situation and will not shy away from taking responsibility to address it, having already set up the Rakhine Advisory Commission.
Unfortunately, he said, on the very day the Commission presented its recommendations, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army launched multiple armed attacks on dozens of security posts in northern Rakhine. These terrorist attacks triggered a mass flow of people into Bangladesh. The international community should not neglect the fact that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army was the real culprit in causing massive displacement. Stressing that the Government has taken the issue of accountability seriously, he said the Independent Commission of Enquiry was set up in July 2018 and tasked with investigating allegations of rights violations following the terrorist attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. Myanmar opposes country-specific resolutions, as they contravene the principles of universality, impartiality and non-selectivity.
The representative of Finland, speaking for the European Union, said the text sends a message of compassion and solidarity to the Rohingya people and other minorities. It calls on Myanmar to end human rights abuses, to ensure accountability and justice, and to tackle the causes of violations. It also highlights violations perpetrated by the security and armed forces against persons belonging to other minorities. Women, children and men have witnessed the murder of family members and friends, and have been subject to enforced disappearance, rape and torture. They have been driven from their homes and forced to seek shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.
The representative of Canada said the draft demonstrates that the international community will not turn a blind eye to gross human rights violations in Myanmar. She expressed concern over ongoing violence, reports of international humanitarian law violations and the increased use of landmines. She welcomed Gambia’s recent submission to the International Court of Justice to instigate proceedings against Myanmar.
The representative of the United States condemned serous rights violations across Myanmar that have been documented in incredible independent reporting, including by the United Nations. The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar highlighted “deeply entrenched impunity”. She reaffirmed the draft’s call to ensure the full protection of human rights of all persons in Myanmar, including Rohingya and all other minorities, which would alleviate suffering and forge a viable, lasting solution. She encouraged all delegations to vote in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the dramatic situation of Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar requires attention in order to provide real assistance that will tackle the causes of this issue. The serious commitment by Myanmar is seen in its actions in this area. He advocated a non‑confrontational approach, welcoming steps by Myanmar to work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Secretary‑General. He also welcomed efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help normalize the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, stressing that country-specific resolutions are not effective and that he will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of the Philippines said the universal periodic review is the appropriate mechanism to assess the human rights situations of States. She supported the Independent Commission of Enquiry and is confident of its ability to bring accountability. She commended the hospitality of Bangladesh and supported the continued dialogue between that country and Myanmar to support the return of displaced persons to Myanmar. Her country will vote against the resolution.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.29” by a recorded vote of 140 in favour to 9 against (Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Philippines, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe), with 32 abstentions.
The representative of China, speaking in explanation of vote, said divergences should be addressed through dialogue and cooperation. China opposes the politicization of human rights issues, including through country-specific human rights resolutions, and as such voted against the resolution.
The representative of Myanmar, noting that he voted against the draft, said the voting results reflect the divisive nature of country-specific resolutions. He is not surprised or discouraged by them, but rather he learned a lesson that some Member States use the power of “bloc voting” to exert pressures on others for their own political agenda. The adoption of the discriminatory draft resolution demonstrates the failure to uphold the principle of sovereign equality among nations. “No nation should be made to feel that its value in the United Nations is decided by the degree of material wealth and political influence it can muster,” he said. When considering the situation of a particular nation, each country’s circumstances must be taken into account, including its unique historical, cultural and political complexities, as well as the opportunities and challenges that lie in its way. It is regrettable that this draft has been adopted, despite its politically motivated nature. It will certainly not help solve the issue of Rakhine State. It will only lead to further polarization. Rejecting the text, he said Myanmar will not be bound by its provisions.
The representative of Liechtenstein welcomed that the Committee continues to discuss the human rights situation in Myanmar. While Liechtenstein values the work of mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, she voiced concern over reports of atrocity crimes in Myanmar that amount to crimes against humanity and possibly genocide. She expressed regret that the draft fails to take note that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court decided to open a case on the enforced deportation of the Rohingya people. Welcoming today’s authorization of an investigation by the Court, she said the draft nonetheless fails to recall the Security Council’s authority to refer the situation to the Court. She deplored these omissions, as they were part of draft resolutions approved on previous occasions. The text also falls short in that it does not reflect the importance of accountability, and for such reasons, Liechtenstein was not in a position to co-sponsor it.
The representative of Thailand, explaining his country’s abstention, said that as a neighbouring country, Thailand is aware of the deeply rooted problems Myanmar faces in Rakhine State. Only close cooperation with Myanmar will lead to a long-term solution. Calling for addressing the multifaceted challenges in a comprehensive manner, he welcomed Myanmar’s collaboration with Bangladesh and underlined the importance of ensuring accountability through the Independent Commission of Enquiry, as well as by strengthening cooperation with ASEAN, which plans to establish an ad hoc support team. In order to find durable solutions for people in need, international and regional collaboration is required, he asserted.
The representative of Nepal welcomed the ongoing cooperation of the United Nations agencies as well as the bilateral process between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bangladesh generously hosts Rohingya refugees despite its own challenges. She called for the voluntary, dignified and safe return of the Rohingya refugees, noting that Nepal abstained in the vote.
The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said his country understands the complex situation in Myanmar, as it closely follows developments in Rakhine State. He stressed the importance of engaging with Myanmar, noting that country-specific resolutions do not help human rights in any country. As such, he voted against the draft.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking in explanation of vote, reaffirmed his country’s position on country-specific resolutions, which do not advance confidence building among the parties concerned. States must guarantee human rights in accordance with their national legislation as well as international law. It is only through genuine dialogue with all parties that human rights policies can be established, he said, pointing to mechanisms created to address abuses. He urged States to work jointly to relieve tensions in the region, noting that Venezuela abstained in the vote.
The representative of Iran, noting that his country was a victim of country-specific resolutions, said his vote on the draft should be viewed in the context of the situation in which human rights of an entire population are being violated. He noted Myanmar’s efforts to make possible the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees.
The representative of Viet Nam expressed regret that the draft does not fully reflect her country’s views and took issue with an unconstructive approach that only exacerbates the challenges Myanmar is trying to overcome in its democratic transition. The most important factor in addressing the situation is mutual trust, which can only be achieved through dialogue. Country-specific resolutions only undermined such efforts and she thus voted against the text. Viet Nam is committed to closely working with ASEAN, she added.
The representative of Bangladesh said the draft resolution is a symbol of the international community’s “custodianship” in helping to facilitate the safe, voluntary repatriation of Rohingya to their place of abode in Rakhine through a bilateral process. Creating a conducive environment is essential, as Rohingyas have repeatedly told the world. The draft outlines actions to address crimes committed by the Myanmar security and armed forces against Rohingyas, as well as issues of justice and accountability. Underscoring the importance of accountability in a sustainable repatriation process, he expressed hope that the draft resolution will pave the way for accountability mechanisms.
The representative of Japan welcomed that Bangladesh has received displaced persons for more than two years and worked to maintain dialogue with Myanmar to resolve the issues at hand. Myanmar must take appropriate measures to address violations in Rakhine. Japan abstained in the vote.
The representative of Zimbabwe expressed concern over country-specific reports or resolutions, calling for constructive dialogue as a more productive approach to tackling human rights issues.
The representative of Singapore said she abstained in the vote, as her country objects to country-specific resolutions as they are highly selective. However, its vote should not be interpreted as taking a position on the substance of the draft resolution. The situation in the Rakhine State can only be improved through constructive dialogue, he stressed, encouraging Myanmar to work with United Nations and continue its cooperation with Bangladesh. ASEAN will establish an ad hoc support team, which the international community should support.
The representative of Indonesia said his country took part in discussions on the draft, a text that should aim to assist Myanmar in finding a lasting solution to the situation in Rakhine, especially on the pressing issue of repatriation. There must be free movement in Rakhine. As an ASEAN member, Indonesia is committed to engaging with Myanmar and others to find a durable solution to the alarming humanitarian situation. It will work with Myanmar through bilateral, regional and other avenues.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.3/74/L.30/Rev.1). The Chair noted that the draft contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of the United States, introducing the draft on behalf of Saudi Arabia, said that, contrary to what several Member States have claimed throughout the day, what the draft addresses is not a political issue; it amounts to a humanitarian catastrophe. Noting that the eight-year conflict has led to the deaths of half a million people, with 5.6 million refugees forced to flee Syria, she described crimes perpetrated by the Assad regime, including unlawful killings that “rise to the level of war crimes”. Bombings terrorize women and children in Idlib, and mothers have had to bury their own children. She called for those responsible for rights violations to be held accountable. In this regard, she welcomed the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and looked forward to the public account of its findings. “The international community will not remain silent about the countless crimes perpetrated in Syria, among them war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she said, calling on all delegations to vote in favour of the text.
The representative of Syria, endorsing the statement by the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Committee had violated the rules of procedure by taking up the draft resolution and reopening its work programme, despite the late submission of the draft by its co-sponsors, who themselves lack the “ethical qualifications to submit draft resolutions on the human rights situation in any country whatsoever”. Syria rejects the resolution and actions by the Committee “as a matter of principle”, expressing regret over the use of double standards and politicization of human rights situations in specific countries, which have now become “policies perpetrated by the mechanisms of the Organization”.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, in general statement, said the situation condemned in previous resolutions concerning Syria continues to exist, including the displacement of 6 million refugees and the use of internationally prohibited weapons. Condemning rights violations “whichever the source”, he nonetheless pointed out that reports by the United Nations state that Syria bears responsibility for most violations. War crimes and crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated in Syria. The draft represents a “glimmer of hope”, and takes a step towards a political solution, which will ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees. He opposed the erosion of progress in the country’s north-east, as well as demographic change by the use of force in the so-called buffer zone, which he characterized as a “serious threat to social cohesion and unity”. Saudi Arabia, along with 50 others, co-sponsored the draft resolution because they “feel the protracted suffering” of the Syrian people, and hope that the draft will help them achieve hope, justice, peace and stability.
The representative of Burundi, speaking in explanation of vote, said she will vote against the resolution and deplored the current trend of using human rights as a tool of political pressure, which could jeopardize the objectives behind the establishment of the Human Rights Council. She called for dialogue and respectful cooperation, rather than the current practice of dividing countries into “good and bad pupils”.
The representative of Syria, speaking in explanation of vote, denounced the misuse of human rights by Governments “who are masters in every aspect of human rights violations”, using such issues to distract from “their own failing policies”. Stressing that the appropriate authority for human rights matters is in Geneva, not in New York, he said the exploitation and misuse of human rights mechanisms by the United States — and its violation of the United Nations Charter — will lead “sooner or later to the shattering of the basis of our Organization, as was the case of the Society of Nations, at another time, and will turn the United Nations into the non‑united Nations”. He opposed the politicization of the Committee’s work by the use of country-specific resolutions “based on biased points of view”. Human rights questions ought not be “entrusted to known extremists such as Saudi Arabia, which exported extremist currents to other countries” in the form of dozens of groups such as Boko Haram and Al‑Qaida. He “congratulated” Saudi Arabia on the inclusion of Israel in the list of co-sponsors, adding that “political and diplomatic terrorism is no less dangerous than armed terrorism”. He called for a recorded vote on the draft, and upon Member States to vote against it or to abstain from voting.
The representative of Venezuela said she will vote against the draft resolution, objecting to the use of selective country-specific resolutions, which violate the United Nations Charter. The current draft also has violated the work programme. The universal periodic review mechanism, which enables cooperation and dialogue, should be used instead of such harmful, non-transparent practices.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he will vote against the draft resolution, condemning the politicization of human rights.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his country will vote against the draft resolution, rejecting the abusive practice of using human rights issues as “a rubber stamp” to exert pressure on individual Member States. He characterized the draft as a “toxic concentrate” of “unsubstantiated conjecture and lies”, adding that it presented a distorted view of the situation on the ground, and was being used to settle geopolitical scores. He condemned the “gross violation of the programme of work” and urged all States to vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of Iran, in explanation of vote, said his country will vote against the draft, rejecting the exploitation of human rights platforms for political rivalries. Denouncing the spending of billions of dollars to destabilize legitimate Governments, he said that such smoke-screens will not “exonerate the creators of ISIL, including the United States, or relieve them of accountability”. The draft touches on issues that are out of the Committee’s purview and purposefully omits Syria’s efforts to restore peace to the country.
The representative of Switzerland said he will support the resolution and called for the accountability of all parties, given the systematic nature of their human rights violations. Expressing concern about the humanitarian conditions in north-west and north-east Syria, he called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law. While he welcomed several inclusions in the draft, such as language calling for the protection of medical staff, he voiced regret over the wording of preambular paragraph 11, and operational paragraphs 2, 11 and 12, as well as the lack of transparency in negotiation.
The representative of Cuba, voting against the resolution, rejected the punitive approach of the Committee, which undermines the territorial integrity of States, adding that such a selective, politically motivated exercise only delays the achievement of a solution to the challenges faced by the Syrian people.
The representative of Belarus, voting against the resolution, reiterated his country’s opposition to country-specific resolutions, urging an end to the practice of using human rights to interfere and exert pressure on sovereign States. The universal periodic review is the most effective way to encourage countries to tackle human rights issues.
The representative of China, voting against the resolution, called for constructive dialogue, and opposed country-specific resolutions.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.30/Rev.1” by a recorded vote of 106 in favour to 15 against, with 58 abstentions.
The representative of Mexico, in explanation of vote, said he voted in favour of the draft resolution, stressing that reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry must be reflected so the text is balanced and not politicized. He urged all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, and to stop weapons transfers to Syria.
The representative of Argentina attached particular importance to human rights bodies in Geneva, underscoring that political dialogue is the most effective way to achieve peace.
The representative of Zimbabwe said country-specific resolutions do not promote dialogue and cooperation, and she reiterated the call for constructive engagement.
The representative of Turkey, in explanation of vote, said her country has supported efforts to advance the protection of human rights in Syria since 2011, when the first resolution was adopted, and has co-sponsored all following resolutions as well as actively contributed to their drafting. However, she expressed regret that this year’s drafting was “handled inadequately and in a manner far from impartiality”. This is particularly the case for the paragraph concerning north-east Syria, which “deliberately distorts the facts on the ground”, she stressed. The language is motivated by the political calculations of certain Member States that are “not pleased with the results of Turkey’s limited cross-border counterterrorism operation”. Therefore, “for the first time in nine years, Turkey is regrettably forced to vote against this resolution.”
She went on to “set the record straight”, explaining that YPG — “the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist organization PKK” — is responsible for the violence in north-east Syria, and has fostered demographic change by oppressing and displacing local populations who opposed its rule, particularly Arabs and Kurds. The draft does not mention the “outrageous action” by this group of releasing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) terrorists so that they commit acts of terror in Turkey or north-west Syria, he stressed, adding that Turkey is the only country to have engaged in “chest-to-chest combat against Da’esh”. The text is also misleading in its interpretation of the humanitarian situation, she said, pointing to the fact that Turkey provides protection to 8 million Syrians both in Turkey and Syria.
The representative of Finland, in a general statement on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret over the escalation of violence in Idlib and Aleppo. Condemning the systematic and widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, and the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and ISIL/Da’esh, he said all those responsible must be brought to justice. He reiterated strong support for accountability mechanisms, particularly the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. He urged Syria to grant such bodies unhindered access to the country, pointing to resolution 2254 (2015) in that context.
The representative of Japan expressed grave concern over the human rights situation in Syria, emphasizing that all parties must respect international law and noting that Japan voted in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of Liechtenstein, pointing to violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity, called for full compliance with international humanitarian law and for the protection of civilians. He further stressed the vital importance of ensuring accountability for the most serious crimes committed in the country, welcoming the creation of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry by the General Assembly and calling for its funding from the regular budget.
The representative of Canada said the draft resolution stresses that all parties to the Syria conflict must protect civilians and humanitarian workers, while perpetrators must be held to account. He called for de-escalating the conflict and welcomed transitional justice mechanisms, which complement the actions of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria, who spoke in exercise of the right of reply, criticized the European Union for continued use of the term “Syrian regime” and thus disrespecting United Nations rules. The European Union’s delegate should refrain from such remarks, as the bloc sent foreign fighters to Syria who then committed crimes against Syrian civilians.
The representative of Japan said that for more than 70 years, since the Second World War, Japan has consistently respected democracy. Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should overcome mutual mistrust and bring peace to the region, she asserted.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, referring to past crimes against humanity committed by Japan, called for compensation for the victims.