Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3803
    15 November 2004

    No Country Immune to Human Rights Problems, Third Committee Told

    Draft Texts Approved on Women in UN System, Human Rights and Terrorism, Human Rights Centre in Central Africa

    NEW YORK, 11 November (UN Headquarters) -- No country in the world was immune to human rights problems, and none should be exempted from international scrutiny, declared the representative of Belarus today as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) took action on several draft resolutions related to human rights and the advancement of women.

    Withdrawing the text on the situation of democracy and human rights in the United States of America from consideration, he said his country remained firmly convinced that the best means of advancing human rights was to hold constructive dialogue between countries. He urged other delegations to follow Belarus’ example and withdraw country-specific resolutions that had been submitted.

    The text submitted by Belarus would have had the General Assembly express deep concern and dismay at reports from credible sources on systematic violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in the United States and urge the Government of the United States to put an end to such violations of human rights.

    Welcoming Belarus’ position regarding the text and its withdrawal, the representatives of the Russian Federation, Malaysia, Cuba, China and Indonesia reiterated that the best way of promoting and protecting human rights continued to be found in constructive dialogue among States.

    Continuing its consideration of human rights questions, the Committee adopted a text on human rights and terrorism by a recorded vote of 109 in favour and 49 against, with 5 abstentions (Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Chile, Syria), which would have the General Assembly reiterate its unequivocal condemnation of the acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as activities aimed at the destruction of human rights.

    Also urging the international community to enhance cooperation at the regional and international levels in the fight against terrorism, the text would have the Assembly urge all States to deny safe haven to terrorists and to take appropriate measures to ensure that neither the status of asylum-seekers nor refugees was abused by perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts.

    It would also have the world body stress that every person, regardless of nationality, race, sex, religion or any other distinction had a right to protection from terrorism and terrorist acts and reject the identification of terrorism with any religion, nationality or culture.

    Making a general statement on the draft before its adoption was the representative of the Russian Federation.

    Speaking in explanation before the vote was the representative of the United States, while the representatives of Chile, Syria, Japan and Canada spoke in explanation after the adoption.

    Also today, the Committee adopted two texts by consensus. The first draft, adopted without a vote, on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, would have the General Assembly welcome the activities of the Centre and request the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide adequate assistance for the proper functioning of the Centre.

    Additionally, under advancement of women, the revised and corrected text on improving the status of women in the United Nations system would have the General Assembly urge the Secretary-General and the executive heads of the organizations of the United Nations system to redouble efforts to realize significant progress towards the goal of 50/50 gender distribution in the very near future.

    Making a general statement on the draft before its adoption was the representative of Australia.

    In other action, the Committee took note of Programme 19 (Human Rights) of the proposed strategic framework for the period 2006-2007 and decided to transmit it to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) for consideration.

    Making statements related to that decision were the representatives of Cuba, Venezuela, New Zealand, Guatemala, Mexico and Costa Rica.

    The Committee also decided to postpone consideration of the proposed supplement to the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities to the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, at the latest.

    The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 15 November, to take action on a variety of outstanding draft resolutions.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to hear introductions of and take action on several drafts within its consideration of advancement of women and human rights. It was also expected to take action on programme 19 (Human Rights) of the proposed strategic framework for the period 2006-2007, as well as the proposed supplement to the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

    Action on Programme 19 - Programme Planning

    Recalling the General Assembly’s decision to allocate agenda item 109 on “Programme Planning” to the Third Committee, the Committee decided to take note of programme 19 (Human Rights) of the proposed strategic framework for the period 2006-2007 and to transmit it to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) for consideration.

    Before the Committee took that decision, the representative of Cuba said the Third Committee, not the Fifth, should take decisions on the substance of proposals for the strategic framework for 2006-2007. Several of the initial formulations for programme 19 must be reviewed in depth. For example, there was a need for greater integration of the right to development to bring about its full enjoyment in the programming of all United Nations system agencies. There was also a need to redress the composition of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as one regional group remained overrepresented in the Secretariat of that agency.

    The representative of Venezuela gave his support to the Cuban statement, but said he would join in the consensus.

    After the decision, the representatives of New Zealand, Guatemala, Mexico and Costa Rica reaffirmed their belief that responsibility for issues of human rights remained with the Third Committee. They expressed concern that the Committee had delegated an issue, which had been dealt with by all other main Committees of the General Assembly without fuss, to the Fifth Committee. However, they had each joined the consensus.

    Action on Draft Resolution

    The Committee then resumed consideration of advancement of women, adopting, without a vote and as orally revised and corrected, a text on Improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document A/C.3/59/L.24), by which it would have the General Assembly urge the Secretary-General and the executive heads of the organizations of the United Nations system to redouble their efforts to realize significant progress towards the goal of 50/50 gender distribution in the very near future. Member States would be strongly encouraged to support the efforts of the United Nations and the specialized agencies, funds and programmes to achieve the goal of 50/50 gender distribution, especially at senior and policy-making levels, by identifying and regularly submitting more women candidates for appointment to positions in the United Nations system.

    Making a statement as sponsor of the draft, before its adoption, the representative of Australia noted that the goal of 50/50 gender distribution had not yet been met. Progress in women’s representation at all levels of the United Nations system remained mixed. He urged the Secretary-General to take necessary action to realize the gender distribution goal.

    Action on Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Disabled Persons

    Presenting the outcome of informal consultations on the proposed supplement to the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, Committee Vice-Chairperson RACHEL GROUX (Switzerland) said that constructive consultations had been held on the issue, and that an agreement to postpone consideration of the proposed supplement to the Standard Rules to the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, at the latest, had been reached. There was also agreement on requesting the Special Rapporteur on disabilities of the Commission for Social Development to take the general ideas contained in the proposed supplement into account in accomplishing her mandate.

    The Committee then decided to postpone consideration of the proposed supplement to the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, on the above basis.

    Action on Drafts

    Turning to human rights questions, the Committee adopted, by consensus, a text on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/59/L.34), which would have the General Assembly welcome the activities of the Centre and request the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide adequate assistance for the proper functioning of the Centre.

    The Committee then turned to the text on human rights and terrorism (document A/C.3/59/L.52), which would have the General Assembly reiterate its unequivocal condemnation of acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as activities aimed at the destruction of human rights. Strongly condemning the violations of the right to life, liberty and security, the text would have the Assembly deplore profoundly the increasing number of innocent persons killed, massacred and maimed by terrorists in indiscriminate and random acts of violence and terror, which cannot be justified in any circumstances.

    Urging the international community to enhance cooperation at the regional and international levels in the fight against terrorism, the text would have the Assembly call upon States to take all necessary and effective measures to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism. Urging all States to deny safe haven to terrorists, it would call upon them to take appropriate measures to ensure that an asylum-seeker has not planned, facilitated or participated in the commission of terrorist acts, and that refugee status is not abused by the perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts.

    The text would also have the Assembly condemn incitement to ethnic hatred, violence and terrorism, and stress that every person, regardless of nationality, race, sex, religion or any other distinction, has a right to protection from terrorism and terrorist acts. It would also reject the identification of terrorism with any religion, nationality or culture.

    Making a statement as the main sponsor before the draft’s adoption, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation hoped that the draft would receive as much support as possible. States would not only be condemning terrorism in all its forms but would express solidarity with victims of terrorism and their families.

    The representative of Switzerland then reiterated that her country had not co-sponsored the draft resolution.

    Speaking in explanation before the vote, the representative of the United States said his country knew all too well the pain and suffering inflicted by terrorism. All remembered the horror of 11 September 2001, on which day Americans and citizens from 80 countries had been killed. Other countries and their nationals had suffered from cruel acts of terrorism, he added. The United States’ heart went out to the Russian Federation and others. Reiterating the United States’ strong commitment to combating the evils of terrorism, he yet regretted that the United States would be obliged to vote against the text. The sponsors had continued to include unacceptable language. Although the United States had striven to find language that would enable a consensus to be reached, its suggestions had not been taken on board.

    The Committee then adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 109 in favour to 49 against, with 5 abstentions (Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Chile and Syria). (See Annex.)

    In a statement in explanation of the vote after the vote, the representative of Chile said his delegation had decided to abstain. Chile had consistently expressed its condemnation of terrorism, which was an affront to human dignity and the rule of law. Catching and prosecuting perpetrators had to be carried out fully in accordance with international law. His delegation had abstained because of preambular paragraph 18 relating to the violation of human rights committed by terrorists. Terrorist groups were not subjects of international law and could not be placed on equal footing with States.

    Also speaking in explanation after the vote, the representative of Syria said her Government condemned all terrorist acts and confirmed that Syria had no problem with the substance of the draft. Syria had always cooperated with resolutions on international legitimacy to combat terrorism. However, her country had abstained in the vote in consistency with its position of principle that had been expressed in the Sixth Committee (Legal) on the need to hold an international conference to define terrorism and to distinguish it from the right of peoples to fight for their self-determination.

    The representative of Japan, explaining his delegation’s vote, said terrorist acts could not be tolerated or justified for any reason. The Japanese Government was committed to cooperating with the international community in the fight against terrorism, but his delegation voted against the draft as it had differing views on several elements contained in the draft.

    The representative of Canada said her country had unequivocally condemned terrorism and had committed enormous efforts nationally and internationally to combat that scourge. Canada continued to believe that the fight against terrorism could be won while respecting human rights, refugee and international humanitarian law. Her country would have preferred to work for consensus on the draft resolution, which contained a great many positive and important elements. However, she could not support some elements of the text, including the reference to terrorist groups as committing violations of human rights. Terrorist acts by individuals or groups of individuals should properly be considered criminal acts and dealt with as such. Moreover, no one human right should be given priority over the others. Furthermore, Canada remained concerned that the terms of the text could be taken as altering the mandate for the study being conducted by the independent expert on protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, which had been adopted with much support in the past. Finally, she noted that the main sponsors of the draft had not engaged in a transparent process of negotiation on the text.

    The Committee then turned to consideration of the text on the Situation of democracy and human rights in the United States of America, which would have the General Assembly express deep concern and dismay at reports from credible sources on systematic violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in the United States and urge the Government of the United States to put an end to such violations of human rights. The Government would also be urged to become a party to all core international human rights instruments, to cooperate fully with the special mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights to investigate fully and impartially all cases of arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, summary execution and torture and to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice before an independent tribunal.

    Also urging the United States to bring its electoral process and legislative framework into line with international standards, the draft would have the Assembly urge the Government to abolish the death penalty for people under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed and for the mentally ill. The practice of incommunicado and secret detention should also be ended immediately, and the Government should ensure that conditions of detention conformed to international standards. Moreover, a zero-tolerance policy on torture should be implemented, and urgent measures should be taken to bring legislation on national security into compliance with United States obligations under relevant international instruments.

    Furthermore, the text would have the Assembly insist that the Government cooperate fully with, and extend invitations to, all mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights. It would also decide to consider this question at the sixtieth session.

    Taking the floor, the representative of Belarus announced the withdrawal of the draft.

    However, he wished to note his delegation’s consistent opposition to all country resolutions on human rights. Such resolutions often purposefully exaggerated the situation of human rights in particular States in order to exert political pressure on those States. Country resolutions acted as an instrument of abuse of the United Nations system for achieving unilateral political goals.

    He said the primary reason his delegation had introduced the draft was to demonstrate to the international community that no country in the world was immune to human rights problems and should, therefore, not be exempt from international scrutiny. That draft resolution, the first of its kind in United Nations history, had achieved that objective.

    Belarus was firmly convinced that the best advancement of human rights was by means of constructive dialogue between countries. His delegation urged other delegations to follow its example and withdraw the country resolutions they had submitted.

    Speaking after the withdrawal of the draft, the representative of the Russian Federation said that his delegation welcomed the statement made by Belarus on withdrawal of the draft from consideration. The Russian Federation felt that was a constructive step aimed at depoliticizing the work of the Third Committee and the human rights system in the United Nations as a whole. It was to be hoped that other delegations would follow Belarus’ example.

    He also wished to confirm the position of principle of his country, which held it destructive to introduce country-specific resolutions for the Committee’s consideration. That practice facilitated the introduction of conflicting elements into the work of the United Nations and reduced the effectiveness of work in the human rights sphere. The United Nations should focus on finding joint solutions to problems, including in the human rights arena. It should not try to exploit the situations of human rights in specific countries. All States should try to use human rights bodies to discuss thematic issues, not country-specific issues.

    The representative of Malaysia said her delegation welcomed the withdrawal of the draft by Belarus. Malaysia was opposed to resolutions that targeted specific countries and had long called for a non-confrontational approach and constructive dialogue to resolve human rights issues. Increasingly, more States were rejecting country-specific resolutions and the practice of naming and shaming. Her delegation called on States to refrain from tabling such resolutions.

    The representative of Cuba said his delegation took note of Belarus’ withdrawal of the text on the understanding that this did not mean the United States was not massively violating the human rights of people all over the world.

    The representative of China said his delegation appreciated the withdrawal of the draft. The purpose of the United Nations in considering human rights issues was to promote international cooperation in the area of human rights. Practice over they years had proven that the introduction of country resolutions for political purposes did not promote cooperation among States. Solving differences through dialogue was the best way to resolve problems related to human rights.

    The representative of Indonesia said his country supported the principle that the best means of advancing human rights around the world was to be found in constructive and cooperative dialogue among nations, not in country-specific resolutions. His country had decided to make promotion and protection of human rights a priority, not because of pressure from around the world, but because respect for human rights was seen as good for development. Indonesia also felt it was better to have a national Plan of Action for human rights, rather than making statements. He also noted that if all countries in the room wished to table draft resolutions on the situation of human rights in other countries, there would be more than 37,000 draft resolutions. There was certainly not enough time to discuss them all.

    ANNEX

    Vote on Human Rights and Terrorism

    The draft resolution on human rights and terrorism (document A/C.3/59/L.52) was approved by a recorded vote of 109 in favour to 49 against, with 5 abstentions, as follows:

    In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana,  Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar,  Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

    Against: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, United States.

    Abstain: Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Chile, Syria.

    Absent: Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Nauru, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Swaziland, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

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