Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3806
    18 November 2004

    Third Committee Approves Draft Resolution on Human Rights in Iran, Follow-up to Social Development Summit

    NEW YORK, 17 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today adopted draft resolutions on the situation of human rights in Iran and on follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development, as it continued to take action on the wide range of issues before it.

    Adopting the text on Iran by a roll-call vote of 69 in favour to 55 against, with 51 abstentions, the Third Committee would have the General Assembly express its serious concern at the continuing violations of human rights in that country. Among other provisions, the text would have the Assembly call upon the Government of Iran fully to implement the ban on torture announced in April 2004, expedite judicial reform, appoint an impartial prosecutor, abolish the punishment of execution by stoning and vigorously pursue penitentiary reform.

    The text would also encourage special rapporteurs and other thematic mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights to visit Iran, including those dealing with extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; independence of judges and lawyers; freedom of religion or belief; as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders.

    By inviting the world to express its opinion, the draft aimed to bring about changes to improve the everyday lives of Iranians, the representative of Canada, the draft’s main sponsor, stated.  Furthermore, if international norms were to have meaning, he added, the international community must speak out in those compelling cases where norms had not been respected and violations of human rights had occurred.

    Iran’s representative noted that a respectable majority of Member States had never supported this or similar texts on her country.  Moreover, many Member States held that drafts of this nature undermined potential within the system and served further to polarize and politicize human rights at the United Nations. No country could claim to enjoy a perfect record on human rights; the text’s co-sponsors should pursue fairness, objectivity and impartiality in their attempt to implement human rights standards.  Cooperation and dialogue were the only effective means to promote and protect human rights.

    Making a general statement on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference was the representative of Pakistan, while the representatives of Malaysia, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, China, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Algeria and Belarus made statements in explanation before the vote.  Speaking in explanation after the vote was the representative of Chile. The representatives of Syria and the CzechRepublic also made general statements on the text.

    Meanwhile, the draft on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, adopted by consensus, would have the world body underline the significance of the forty-third session of the Commission for Social Development, marking the tenth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development.  At that time, the Commission would undertake a review of implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, and by the text, the Assembly would recommend that particular attention be given to the principle of a people-centred approach during the review.

    In other action, the Committee took note of the reports of Secretary-General on preparations for the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/59/123-E/2004/90), strengthening international cooperation and technical assistance in preventing and combating terrorism (document A/59/187), preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of funds of illicit origin and returning such assets to the countries of origin (document A/59/203 and Add.1) and international cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime (document A/59/204), as well as the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the High-level Political Conference for the Purpose of Signing the United Nations Convention against Corruption (document A/59/77).

    Also today, the representative of the Philippines introduced a draft resolution on trafficking in women and girls, while the representatives of Ghana, Norway, Jordan and South Africa introduced texts related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons. The representative of Pakistan introduced a draft on universalization of the right of people to self-determination, and the representatives of Peru and Mexico introduced texts related to the Committee’s consideration of human rights.

    The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 18 November, to continue to take action on, and hear introductions of, various draft resolutions.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue taking action on, and hear introductions of, a wide range of draft resolutions before it.  Among other actions, it was expected to adopt texts on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and on the human rights situation in Iran.

    Action on Draft Resolutions

    As its first order of business for the day, the Committee had before it a text on Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/59/L.17/Rev.1), which would have the General Assembly underline the significance of the forty-third session of the Commission for Social Development, marking the tenth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development. At that time, the Commission would undertake a review of implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, and by the text, the Assembly would recommend that particular attention be given to the principle of a people-centred approach during the review.

    Stressing the vital importance of achieving social development for all and integrating social development objectives, the Assembly would underline the importance of adopting effective measures to support the efforts of developing countries to achieve sustained economic growth, sustainable development, poverty reduction and strengthening of democratic systems, while reaffirming that each country has the primary responsibility for its own economic and social development.

    The text was then adopted without a vote.

    Speaking in explanation of position after the adoption, the representative of the United States said that while his country had joined the consensus, it continued to have strong reservations about operative paragraph 10. Many developing countries had witnessed unprecedented opportunities for growth, which had arisen as a result of globalization. Yet, seizing those opportunities required appropriate governance and the adoption of solid macroeconomic policies.  Governments that attempted to turn their back on the process of globalization limited their people’s development opportunities. Furthermore, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) was looking into this subject in greater detail. It, therefore, seemed premature to include this paragraph.

    Making a general statement in his capacity as Chairman of the Commission on Social Development, the representative of South Africa said his delegation believed the text would provide the basis for the outcome of the review of the Copenhagen Summit. Noting the importance of the review, he said his delegation hoped the resolution would inform the outcome of the review in the form of a declaration and that it would contribute to the major event to be held in September 2005.

    Subsequently, the Committee considered issues related to crime prevention and criminal justice, taking note of the reports of the Secretary-General on preparations for the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/59/123-E/2004/90), strengthening international cooperation and technical assistance in preventing and combating terrorism (document A/59/187), preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of funds of illicit origin and returning such assets to the countries of origin (document A/59/203 and Add.1), and international cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime (document A/59/204), as well as the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the High-level Political Conference for the Purpose of Signing the United Nations Convention against Corruption (document A/59/77).

    Resuming its consideration of questions of human rights, the Committee turned to the draft on the Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/59/L.50).  While noting the commitment made by the Government to strengthen respect for human rights and to promote the rule of law, the text would have the General Assembly express its serious concern at the continuing violations of human rights in that country, including with regard to the worsening situation concerning freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of the media. Concern would also be expressed at continuing executions in the absence of respect for internationally recognized safeguards; the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment; continued restrictions on free assembly and forcible dissolution of political parties; the failure to comply fully with international standards for the administration of justice; systematic discrimination against women and girls, and continuing discrimination against persons belonging to minorities, among other phenomena.

    Among other provisions, the text would have the Assembly call upon the Government to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms, fully to implement the ban on torture announced in April 2004 and to expedite judicial reform. It would also be encouraged to appoint an impartial prosecutor, to abolish the punishment of execution by stoning and to vigorously pursue penitentiary reform. It would also encourage the thematic mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights, including those dealing with extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, independence of judges and lawyers and freedom of religion or belief, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, to visit Iran.

    Making a general statement as the draft’s main sponsor, the representative of Canada explained his delegation’s motivation in bringing the present text before the Committee, recalling that, with the adoption of a related text last year, the General Assembly had called for the Committee to revisit the issue this year. Noting that, if anything, the situation of human rights in Iran had deteriorated in the months since the adoption of the previous resolution, he acknowledged that positive developments had also been seen. They had been reflected in the draft in an attempt to achieve balance. However, those positive developments did not outweigh continued concern about human rights abuses.

    A general reluctance to use country-specific resolutions had been witnessed, he added.  However, it was his country’s position that, if international norms were to have meaning, the international community must speak out in those compelling cases where norms had not been respected and violations of human rights had occurred. Furthermore, country-specific resolutions were not contradictory to human rights dialogues, but complementary. His country hoped, in inviting the world to express its opinion, to bring about changes to improve the everyday lives of Iranians.

    The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the organization had consistently opposed the practice of selectively submitting country-specific resolutions critical of certain developing countries. Such texts did not serve to promote human rights. Moreover, action taken at the international level must be measured against the consequences and likely results at the national. The text would in no way improve the situation. He also noted that, in recent years, Iran had extended invitations to all special mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights that had requested visits. The country had conducted human rights dialogues with other countries and had worked to improve respect for human rights on the ground. Developing countries faced obstacles to overcome in promoting human rights; judgment of their efforts should not be based against perfection.  The members of the Islamic Conference would oppose the draft.

    In a statement in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Malaysia said the non-aligned movement had emphasized that human rights issues must be addressed through a constructive dialogue-based approach that respected sovereignty and non-interference as its guiding principles. The exploitation of human rights for extraneous considerations that were contrary to the United Nations Charter should be excluded. With this in mind, Malaysia would vote against this resolution and all resolutions targeting specific countries.

    The representative of Cuba said his delegation would vote against the discriminatory text, which did not reflect any interest in promoting a genuine cause of human rights. It was a reflection of double standards. No country had the right to monitor the internal dynamics of a sovereign State. Canada should look at its own problems in promoting and protecting human rights. His delegation reiterated its opposition to this manipulative exercise.

    The representative of Brazil said his country would abstain on the vote, as it had serious doubts about resolutions that singled out certain countries, except in situations of specific gravity. Such texts politicized the human rights discussion without benefiting the individuals they purported to defend. Brazil supported the strengthening of promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, and the strengthening of the Commission on Human Rights’ thematic procedures.

    In the specific case of Iran, he noted that while the draft itself was condemnatory, it had welcomed positive developments.  Brazil continued to deplore especially the situation of religious minorities in Iran -- particularly the Bahá’i -- who continued to suffer from discrimination and the destruction of their cultural heritage.  The Government of Iran was urged to redress that situation.

    The representative of Venezuela said her country would vote against the draft.  Venezuela could not agree with the selective condemnation of certain States. All States’ right to non-interference in their affairs remained a serious issue.

    The representative of China said the resolution ignored the positive progress made by Iran in the area of human rights and the important contributions it made in promoting international dialogue. Her delegation always maintained that differences on human rights issues should be resolved through dialogue. The resolution would only promote an atmosphere of confrontation in the Third Committee. For these reasons China would vote against the resolution.

    The representative of Turkmenistan said human rights situations should be addressed through dialogue and reconciliation. This resolution politicized the issue and was counterproductive to the efforts to promote human rights. Her delegation would vote against the resolution.

    The representative of the Sudan reiterated her delegation’s rejection of the politicization of human rights, selectivity and double standards. The resolution would interfere in the internal affairs of Iran as do the resolutions targeting other States. Iran had promoted dialogue among civilizations and called for cooperation among States in this regard. Her delegation was at a loss regarding Canada’s persistence in submitting this resolution and did not find sound reason for the continuation of such an approach.  This Committee should not be a forum for settling bilateral scores. The Sudan would vote against the draft.

    The representative of Algeria said he endorsed the statements made by Pakistan and Malaysia, the latter of which had reflected the contents of the Ministerial Declaration of the Non-Aligned Movement.  Algeria would vote against the text.

    The representative of Belarus said he would vote against the draft on Iran, consistent with his country’s opposition to country-specific resolutions. Calling upon other States to follow its example, Belarus urged a constructive dialogue among Member States of the United Nations. The present text represented a partial approach; it merely criticized a country while ignoring all the progress that had been made in human rights protection. Belarus pleaded for international cooperation on human rights, which should encompass helping Governments to shoulder their burden for human rights under international law. Such cooperation must be transparent and based on mutual respect among equal States.

    The representative of Iran said the United Nations human rights mechanism, particularly the country resolutions, had failed to achieve the goal of full realization of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, due mainly to the loss of credibility and legitimacy.  This problem could be overcome if all were prepared to participate in a cooperative, fair and impartial manner.

    She said the pattern of voting that had been exercised with regard to the resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran had never been supported by a respectable majority of Member States.  Many Member States believed that resolutions of this nature undermined the potentials within the system and served to further polarization and politicization of human rights in the United Nations.

    She said this draft resolution had found its way to the General Assembly out of the urgencies and exigencies of Canadian internal politics and was a response to the political outcry in Canada over the unfortunate death of Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi.  It was evident that Canada had brought a bilateral case of judicial nature to the General Assembly with the view to abusing human rights mechanisms to advance its self-centred political interests.  Isolated human rights incidents should not provide the ground for submitting country resolutions to the General Assembly.  No country could claim to enjoy a perfect record on human rights.  Canada itself had records of violating the rights of indigenous people, migrants, minorities and foreigners.

    Iran urged the co-sponsors of the resolution to pursue fairness, objectivity and impartiality in their attempt to implement human rights standards.  Cooperation and dialogue were the only effective means to promote and protect human rights.

    The text on the human rights situation in Iran was then adopted by a roll-call vote of 69 in favour to 55 against, with 51 abstentions.

    Speaking in explanation after the vote, the representative of Chile said his country had voted in favour of the draft due to specific situations in Iran that remained inconsistent with human rights, and with the country’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Prohibition of Torture, in particular.  However, Chile welcomed the open invitation extended to special mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights, as well as the country’s cooperation in general with United Nations mechanisms.  Chile would follow developments in Iran to ensure that commitments were honoured, in particular the commitment to the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief.

    Making a general statement after the vote, the representative of Syria said her country insisted that the handling of human rights issues in any country must be de-politicized, non–selective and not interfere with the internal affairs of States.  Cooperation and dialogue, with consideration for religious particularities of a country, must be taken into account to promote human rights.

    The representative of the CzechRepublic said that if not for the changes brought on by the Velvet Revolution in 1989, she would not have had the chance to work abroad, nor would she be allowed to read foreign books or to listen to foreign radio.  It was due to such respect for human rights that the people of her country were now able to enjoy these fundamental freedoms.

    Introduction of Draft Resolutions

    Turning to introductions of draft resolutions, the Committee heard the presentation of a text on Trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/59/L.27/Rev.1) by the representative of the Philippines.  She said the text attempted to fill the gaps existing in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  Thus, while based on the principles of the trafficking protocol, the present draft’s specific goal was to advance the interests of women and girls.  However, it did not ignore the concerns of men and boys.  Moreover, the draft constituted the General Assembly’s main concrete action to act to combat trafficking in women and girls in line with relevant provisions of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  The international community could not afford to diminish the importance of a strategic gender-based approach to fighting trafficking in women and girls, she concluded.  She also read out several amendments to the revised draft.

    Regarding the text related to Enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/59/L.72), the representative of Ghana noted that membership on the Executive Committee today stood at 66, up from 25 at its founding.  In view of their activities in support of refugees, Romania and Ghana met the requirements for membership on the Executive Committee.  The two Member States therefore supported the draft’s adoption.

    Concerning the draft on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/59/L.73), the representative of Norway said the purpose of the draft was to reaffirm the support of the General Assembly for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The text focused on new developments and reflected the work undertaken by the UNHCR during the course of the past year.  It welcomed the progress achieved by the High Commissioner and encouraged support for development of the 4 R’s (repatriation, recovery, reconciliation, reconstruction) and other programming tools to facilitate the transition from relief to development.

    Introducing a text related to the New international humanitarian order (document A/C.3/59/L.74), the representative of Jordan said that, in view of the global challenges faced by the international community in recent years, there was a growing need to promote collective efforts for humanitarian action.  He also noted that a number of revisions suggested during informal consultations would be reflected in the revised version of the text, which should be adopted by consensus as in past years.

    On the text related to Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/C.3/59/L.78), the representative of South Africa noted African countries were host to thousands of refugees and displaced persons.  She said new emergencies were arising and imposed an intolerable burden both on those who were uprooted and on the fragile communities that hosted them.  The draft was of extreme importance and addressed the root causes of displacement.  It called on the international community to take concrete action to meet the needs of refugees and displaced persons in Africa.  It addressed the situation of women and children, including unaccompanied children and former child soldiers.  The draft outlined the various challenges and complexities facing refugees and displaced persons and the communities that host them.  It placed emphasis on the importance of partnerships at all levels.

    Regarding the draft on the Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/59/L.75), the representative of Pakistan said the right to self-determination had been recognized as a key principle and objective of the United Nations Charter.  Moreover, the United Nations’ Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and other international agreements had recognized that all peoples had the right to self-determination.  The present text signified that realization of the right remained a sine qua non for realization of all other human rights.  Traditionally, the text had been adopted by consensus -- except last year -- due to the universality of the right to self-determination.  It was to be hoped that the consensus would be regained.

    Introducing a draft resolution on Human rights and extreme poverty (document A/C.3/59/L.38), the representative of Peru said the eradication of extreme poverty was the greatest challenge for the world and particularly for developing countries.  The draft reaffirmed that extreme poverty was an attack on human dignity and its eradication was a challenge that required international cooperation and resolute national efforts.  No effort must be spared in combating extreme poverty.

    Concerning the draft on Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/C.3/59/L.44), the representative of Mexico said he shared the understanding of terrorism as a fundamental problem confronting the world.  However, protecting the population against acts of terrorism must not imply suspension of guarantees for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Those principles constituted a fundamental tool by which to combat terrorism.  The text, therefore, reaffirmed the international community’s responsibility to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.  He also expressed concern over the conclusion that the United Nations had not comprehensively tackled the issue of State obligations to protect and promote human rights while countering terrorism.

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