Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6113
                                                                     16 June 2004

    Economic and Social Council Decides to Appoint Rapporteur on Human Rights in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

    Action Also Taken on Eight Other Rights Recommendations

    NEW YORK, 15 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon took action on recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on Human Rights on its sixtieth session, adopting nine decisions recommended by the Commission, one of them by a vote.

    The Council adopted a draft decision to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate and report on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, by 28 votes in favour to 6 against (China, Cuba, Indonesia, Libya, Russian Federation, and Zimbabwe), with 19 abstentions. (See Annex.)

    In a statement before the vote, a representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it was regrettable that the draft decision was before the Council’s current session as it was based on false information and was being adopted solely for political purposes to tarnish the image of his country.

    The Council then adopted without a vote a draft decision on the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation of human rights in Belarus.

    Speaking before the adoption of the draft decision, a representative of Belarus said the draft was politically motivated and contained allegations that had nothing to do with reality.

    Turning to the Commission’s recommendation regarding impunity, the Council adopted unanimously a draft decision that would urge all States to ensure that all military commanders and other superiors were aware of their criminal responsibility under international law for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It further urged States to bring to justice those responsible for gender-related crimes and crimes of sexual violence, and to assist each other in arresting persons suspected of having committed international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

    Also adopted unanimously were decisions on advisory services and technical cooperation in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that would appoint independent experts to consider the situation of human rights in those countries.

    A draft decision was then adopted to appoint an independent expert to facilitate cooperation between the Government of Chad and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the promotion and protection of human rights.

    The Council also adopted draft decisions on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and on the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to focus on the human rights aspects of the victims of human trafficking, especially women and children.

    A draft decision to appoint an independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan was also adopted unanimously.

    Background

    Before the Council were excerpts from the report of the Commission on Human Rights on its sixtieth session (E/2004/L.9 and E/2004/L.9/Add.1), which includes draft decisions recommended for adoption by the Council, as well as resolutions and decisions adopted by the Commission at its sixtieth session. The addendum contains statements on administrative and programme budget implications circulated by the Secretariat at the Commission’s sixtieth session and includes perennial activities with new mandates adopted by the Commission at its sixtieth session.

    Among the recommendations contained in the excerpt are draft decisions to appoint Special Rapporteurs to investigate and report on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Belarus, and to appoint an independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. There are also draft decisions recommended on advisory services and technical cooperation in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chad.

    The report further notes the endorsement by the Economic and Social Council of the Commission’s decision to designate an independent expert to assist the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to submit a report at its sixty-first session on ways to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

    Also noted is the Council’s endorsement of the Commission’s decision to appoint a Special Rapporteur to focus on the human rights aspects of the victims of human trafficking, especially women and children. The Council also endorses the Commission’s request to the Special Rapporteur to submit an annual report, commencing with the sixty-first session of the Commission, on measures required to uphold and protect the human rights of the victims.

    Among the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Commission at its sixtieth session, the Commission urges authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to ensure humanitarian organizations full and unimpeded access to all parts of the country. The Commission also calls upon the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to assist and cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

    Regarding the situation of human rights in Belarus, the Commission urges the Government of Belarus to dismiss law-enforcement officers and public officials implicated in forced disappearances and summary executions and to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to investigate fully all cases of forced disappearance, summary execution and torture, and to ensure that all perpetrators are brought to justice before an independent tribunal.

    On the subject of impunity, the Commission urges all States to ensure that all military commanders and other superiors are aware of their criminal responsibility under international law for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It further urges States to bring to justice those responsible for gender-related crimes and crimes of sexual violence, and to assist each other in arresting persons suspected of having committed international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

    The resolution on impunity urges States to provide victims of human rights violations with a fair process through which these violations can be investigated and calls on States to ensure that criminal proceedings are conducted in accordance with the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent tribunal in accordance with international law.

    The resolution adopted on advisory services and technical cooperation in Burundi condemns all acts of violence and human rights violations, as well as the sale and illegal distribution of weapons and materials that hinder peace and security in the region. It also encourages the Transitional Government to continue the disarmament and demobilization programmes and to continue its actions aimed at restoring democracy and peace.

    The report further notes the resolution adopted on advisory services and technical cooperation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which condemns the persistent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in that country. It urges all parties to refrain from all military activity, to provide support for the transition to permit the restoration of political and economic stability, and to allow free and secure access to all areas to permit investigations of human rights violations.

    The resolution adopted on advisory services and technical cooperation in Chad urges all parties to promote dialogue among the various entities active in the field of human rights with a view to preventing and resolving intercommunal conflicts, to support reform of the justice system, and to support structures and institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights.

    The report also notes the adoption of a text on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, which calls on all parties to the N’Djamena ceasefire agreement to respect the agreement fully and to ensure that all armed groups under their control comply with the agreement. The text also calls on the parties to conflict in Darfur to observe the humanitarian ceasefire and to grant immediate and full access to Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan, aimed at delivering humanitarian assistance to civilians in need. It further calls on the international community to continue providing relief assistance to the affected population in Darfur and to enhance the efforts of the Government of the Sudan in the peace process. It calls on the Government of the Sudan to actively promote and protect human rights and international humanitarian law throughout the country.

    Also noted in the report are resolutions adopted for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and for the appointment of a special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children.

    Action on Decisions

    The Council first took up the draft decision entitled “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”.

    The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, making a general statement, said it was regrettable that the draft decision was before the Economic and Social Council’s current session. During the April session of the Commission on Human Rights, the European Union had sponsored their resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea solely based on fabricated information. It clearly showed the politicization of human rights issues by the European Union, the United States and some other Western countries in the United Nations. Human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the United States and its allies had never been brought to the table at United Nations. Justice and equity were lifelines in United Nations activities. The resolution had been adopted solely for political purposes and to tarnish the image of his country and was based on false information. The draft decision, therefore, constituted a serious challenge to the United Nations Charter. He called on all members who cherished justice to vote against the draft decision in a display of justice over high-handed strength.

    The representative of China said the economy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had, due to natural disasters, witnessed difficulties. To overcome those difficulties and to improve its human rights situation, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had made many efforts. That country had also demonstrated international cooperation in the field of human rights. It had already approved four major human rights conventions and had held numerous rounds of dialogue with the European Union. It had also invited a Special Rapporteur on the prohibition of violence against women to visit the country. Under such circumstances, the international community should help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea instead of condemning it. The draft would not help to promote the human rights situation in the country.

    Over the recent past, and with common efforts by all parties, tensions in the Korean peninsula had been alleviated, he continued. In that regard, he hoped all the parties would work in a spirit of mutual respect so as to narrow the differences in views, and achieve lasting peace in the Korean peninsula through dialogue. All efforts conducive to peace should be supported. He believed that the draft would only complicate the situation. China, therefore, would vote against the draft.

    Cuba’s representative, also making a general statement, said the decision was based on a politicized exercise. His basic concern related to the selective and biased approach of the decision.

    Ireland’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, said the Union had serious concerns regarding human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It was for that reason it had brought forward the draft resolution at the Commission’s sixtieth session. The Commission shared those concerns and had adopted a resolution on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. One of the core aspects of the resolution was the decision to appoint a Special Rapporteur to establish direct contact with the Government and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The establishment of a special mechanism of the Commission on Human Rights should make a positive contribution toward improving the protection of human rights in the country. The draft decision would make it possible for the Commission to fill that new mandate. The European Union urged the Council to support the decision by voting in favour of it.

    The United States representative said her delegation had co-sponsored the resolution. Her delegation continued to have grave concern about the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. A Special Rapporteur could be a positive vehicle for improving the human rights situation. The Commission’s decision should be respected. The United States would vote in favour of the resolution and urged other members to do the same.

    The Council then adopted the decision by a vote of 28 in favour to 6 against (China, Cuba, Indonesia, Libya, Russian Federation and Zimbabwe) with 19 abstentions. (See Annex.)

    The Council than turned to the second draft decision, on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

    The representative of Belarus said the decision, as well as the whole Commission resolution in which it was contained, was entirely politically motivated. The resolution contained allegations that had nothing to do with reality. Belarus totally rejected all the allegations and did not accept the resolution based thereon, neither in letter nor in spirit. The resolution’s content went against the tasks of international cooperation in the area of human rights. The decision of appointing the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus had neither factual nor moral ground. The resolution, as well as the decision on the appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Belarus, had been adopted under unprecedented pressure from a range of countries and demonstrated the application of a policy of double standards related to Belarus pursuing independent foreign policy.

    The adoption of such resolutions and decisions undermined the authority and credibility of the Commission and the Council, he said. Belarus had always demonstrated its commitment to the protection of human rights. Unlike some authors of the resolution, Belarus was a party to all basic international treaties in the area of human rights and fully cooperated with international treaty bodies in that sphere. Belarus proceeded from the assumption that mutual understanding came not from alienation and marginalization, but from equal and constructive interaction. By approving the decision on the appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Belarus, the Council would do nothing but ignore the constructive cooperation between Belarus and the Commission’s thematic procedures and try to bring unjustified pressure to a country pursuing an independent foreign policy. Exploiting the subject of human rights for promoting political and economic interests contradicted the very concept of human rights. Only a constructive and balanced approach based on open dialogue and cooperation could lead to improvements in the field of human rights.

    The representative of the Russian Federation said the draft had been presented for exclusively political motives. The draft’s contents had nothing to do with promoting a constructive cooperation in the field of human rights. The document was all the more inadequate as it was being considered at a time when Belarus authorities were taking steps to develop dialogue with the Human Rights Commission.

    Cuba’s representative said he was concerned about the draft, since it was based on a politically motivated approach and did not reflect the improvement of the situation in Belarus. For that reason, he wished to highlight his concerns about the draft.

    China’s representative said he could not accept the draft decision, as it did not tally with reality. Recently, the Government of Belarus had achieved great progress in establishing democracy and the rule of law, and in guaranteeing the freedom of religion, association and the press. The people of the country were enjoying human rights and basic freedoms. The draft decision had ignored the progress the country had made. China believed that the draft decision was politically motivated and, therefore, unacceptable.

    The draft was then approved without a vote.

    Turning to the third draft decision, entitled “Impunity”, the Council adopted that text, acting without a vote.

    Also acting without a vote, the Council then adopted draft decision four on advisory services and technical cooperation in Burundi.

    The Council also adopted, without a vote, draft decision five on advisory services and technical cooperation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and draft decision six on advisory services and technical cooperation in Chad.

    Likewise, draft decision seven, entitled “protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”, was also adopted without a vote.

    The Council next adopted, again without a vote, draft decision eight entitled “Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children”.

    The Council then turned to draft decision nine on the situation of human rights in Sudan, adopting that text without a vote.

    The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the result of the vote had demonstrated that more member States had come to understand the nature of the decision rejecting a “gangster like” doctrine. He was certain that the unjust reality of today would not last long. Though the European Union was proud of its role as the cradle of democracy, there had been no genuine constructive dialogue in the human rights field, as its cries for human rights represented only hypocrisy. He expressed gratitude to member States voting against and abstaining on the draft.

    ANNEX

    Vote on Special Rapporteur in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

    The Economic and Social Council adopted a draft decision on the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document E/2004/L.9) by a recorded vote of 28 in favour to 6 against, with 19 abstentions:

    In favour: Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Burundi, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

    Against: China, Cuba, Indonesia, Libya, Russian Federation, Zimbabwe.

    Abstaining: Bangladesh, Benin, Colombia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania.

    Absent: Congo.

    * *** *