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Seventieth Session,
43rd & 44th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4151

Third Committee Concludes Human Rights Debate, Tabling 14 Drafts, Sending 6 Texts to General Assembly on Terrorism, Gender Violence, Drug Control, Crime, Justice

Trafficking and targeted violations against women, indigenous peoples and other groups were among the national, regional and global concerns delegates raised as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, introduced 14 draft resolutions and approved, without a vote, 6 texts on issues ranging from counter-terrorism to efforts to end gender-based violence.

Draft resolutions approved today without a recorded vote were on Cooperatives in social development; Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules); Taking action against gender-related killing of women and girls; Technical assistance for implementing the international conventions and protocols related to counter-terrorism; and the Special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem to be held in 2016.

Delegates also heard the introduction of a package of draft texts on key agenda items.  Those draft texts were the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief; freedom of religion or belief; recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection; the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity; national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights; protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons; and the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The following draft resolutions were also introduced: strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization; the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; towards the full realization of an inclusive and accessible United Nations for persons with disabilities; United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region; and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Drafts were also introduced on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Representatives of those and other countries, exercising the right of reply, spoke out against country-specific resolutions.  The delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country had consistently maintained a principled position against all politically-motivated country-specific resolutions and categorically rejected the draft text.  Similarly, Iran’s speaker said the United Nations human rights mechanisms had been established to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms based on the principles of equality, objectivity and non-politicization.  Her delegation rejected the draft resolution, which was full of fabricated issues based on the political interests of the main sponsor.

Speaking during the Committee’s action on the drafts were representatives of Argentina and Switzerland.  Presenting draft resolutions for the Committee’s consideration were representatives of Egypt, Mexico, Luxembourg, Norway, Greece, Germany, Austria, United States, Spain, Poland, Qatar and Canada.

The delegates from Syria and Canada delivered statements, exercising the right of reply.

Delivering statements during the discussion on human rights were the representatives of Ecuador, Venezuela, Iran, Morocco, Canada, Cameroon, Serbia, Palau, Albania, as well as the European Union.  A representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also spoke.

Exercising the right of reply after the discussion were the representatives of Egypt, China, Russian Federation, Serbia, Sudan, Albania and Ukraine.

The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Tuesday, 10 November, to take action on additional draft resolutions.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to hear the introduction of draft resolutions and to take action on several texts. 

During its afternoon meeting, it would conclude its general debate under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4139.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

Considering the Committee’s agenda item relating to the right of peoples to self-determination, the representative of Egypt introduced a draft resolution on “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/70/L.42).

Turning to the agenda item on the human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the representatives of Mexico, Egypt, Luxembourg, Norway, Greece, and Germany, respectively, submitted drafts on “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” (document A/C.3/70/L.23); “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief” (document A/C.3/70/L.40); “Freedom of religion or belief” (document A/C.3/70/L.41); “Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection” (document A/C.3/70/L.46); “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” (document A/C.3/70/L.48); and “National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights” (document A/C.3/70/L.49).

On the same agenda item, six draft texts were tabled, respectively, by the delegates of Norway, Austria, United States, Spain, Poland and Qatar.  The draft texts were “Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons” (document A/C.3/70/L.51); “Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” (document A/C.3/70/L.52); “Strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization” (document A/C.3/70/L.54); “The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation” (document A/C.3/70/L.55); “Towards the full realization of an inclusive and accessible United Nations for persons with disabilities” (document A/C.3/70/L.56); “United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region” (document A/C.3/70/L.57).

In relation to the human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, Luxembourg’s representative introduced a draft resolution on the “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (document A/C.3/70/L.35).  The representative of Canada then tabled a draft text on the “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (document A/C.3/70/L.45).

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country had consistently maintained its principled position against all politically-motivated country-specific resolutions.  In that regard, his delegation categorically rejected the draft resolution “L.35”.  Despite continuing efforts of his country, the European Union and Japan had chosen to provoke confrontation by tabling that draft text, yet remained silent on gross human rights violation of their allies, in particular the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also exercising the right of reply, Syria’s representative regretted that the Committee was discussing country-specific resolutions aimed at involving itself in States’ domestic affairs.

Iran’s speaker, exercising the right of reply, said the United Nations human rights mechanisms had been established to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms based on the principles of equality, objectivity, and non-politicization.  It was unfortunate that Canada, with a very questionable record of human rights, in particular on the rights of aboriginal peoples, had pursued a hostile policy and introduced a draft resolution against her country.  Tabling of that counterproductive and ill-intentioned draft resolution took place at the time when Iran’s policy was aimed at having a constructive engagement with the world.  Her delegation rejected draft resolution “L.45”, which was full of fabricated issues based on the political interests of the main sponsor.

Also exercising the right of reply, the representative of Canada thanked his Iranian counterpart for drawing attention to Canada’s peaceful democratic transition.  He said the real issue was the issue of the situation of human rights in Iran about which the facts spoke clearly for themselves.

The delegate of Iran, taking the floor for a second time, noted that the draft had been tabled on 26 October 2015 when the Conservative Government of Canada was still in office.

Action on Draft Resolutions

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution on “Cooperatives in social development” (document A/C.3/70/L.12).

 

The Committee then approved a draft resolution titled “Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice” (document A/C.3/70/L.2), again without a vote.

Following the approval of the latter text, the representative of Qatar recalled the youth forum that had been organized when her country hosted the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in April.  Future host countries were invited to follow suit.  The Doha Declaration would guide States’ efforts in combatting crime until the next Congress was held in Japan in 2020.

The speaker from Argentina also delivered a statement with regard to trafficking in wildlife.

The Committee, again without a vote, then approved the draft resolution regarding the “United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules)” (document A/C.3./70/L.3).

Speaking after the action taken on that text, the representative of Switzerland, on behalf of a group of countries, said approving the draft resolution marked a historic moment in the protection of persons deprived of their liberties.  All States were urged to fully and effectively implement the “Mandela Rules” without delay.

Without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft resolution on “Taking action against gender-related killing of women and girls” (document A/C.3/70/L.4).

The Committee also approved, without a vote, the draft on “Technical assistance for implementing the international conventions and protocols related to counter-terrorism” (document A/C.3/70/L.5).

Finally, the Committee approved, once more without a vote, the draft titled “Special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem to be held in 2016” (document A/C.3/70/L.6).

Human Rights

IOANNIS VRAILAS of the European Union said that the past year had witnessed unprecedented attacks on human life and dignity by State and non-State actors on grounds of religion, race, gender or sexual orientation.  Beyond that, in too many places, repression and persecution of human rights defenders and civil society organizations had continued.  He condemned indiscriminate attacks against civilians by the Syrian regime, including the use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons, which had resulted in the world’s largest humanitarian disaster.  He also condemned atrocities and human rights abuses by, among others, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and extrajudicial killings by Iraqi armed groups, which had jeopardized reconciliation.  Alongside accountability, lasting peace and transition required genuine dialogue and the involvement of women, he added, while calling for respect for humanitarian law in Yemen and Sudan.

Turning to the migrant crisis, he expressed concern at the rising number of people fleeing human rights violations and abuses in Syria, Iraq and Eritrea.  The European Union had stepped up its efforts to respond to crises with full respect for human rights, he said, stressing the importance of addressing the root causes of violent extremism and persecution.  In that regard, he called on all concerned countries to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms and to avail themselves of assistance offered.  He was also concerned about restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly that were often falsely legitimized by the need to ensure security, as was the case in Egypt.  He reiterated the European Union’s support to the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders.  He condemned in that regard the repression carried out by China and the Russian Federation, including in the Crimean peninsula.

LUIS XAVIER OÑA GARCÉS (Ecuador) expressed grave concern with measures undertaken by some States which had an impact on the human rights of migrants.  Asking how long the situation of anonymous victims crossing borders could continue to be ignored, he said it was imperative to have programmes that recognized the positive contribution of migrants in countries of destination.  All Member States were called upon to guarantee the protection of the rights of children and to facilitate the reunification of families.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela) said his country’s achievements in the area of human rights had been recognized by the international community and the United Nations.  Its report to the Human Rights Council in the universal periodic review framework had been submitted a few days ago.  Providing an overview of those gains, he said progress in such areas as gender equality and HIV/AIDS had been quantifiable.  Both extreme poverty and inequality had been reduced.  Venezuela opposed any action that undermined fundamental freedoms and human rights.  Concluding, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to building a world of peace, free of violence and conflict and founded on the unrestricted respect for human rights.

FOROUZANDEH VADIATI (Iran) regretted that the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity were not upheld in some places, including by so-called champions of human rights, whose ideologies had caused disasters in the Middle East.  She regretted the policy of naming and shaming within the United Nations by those same countries.  She expressed her hope that the election of the new Government in Canada would lead to an improvement of the human rights situation on the ground, including regarding the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly indigenous women.  The continued tragedy of Palestinian people continued to be of great concern, she said, condemning Israeli crimes.  She expressed concerns over human rights violations in the United States and encouraged Japan to made progress for ensuring the rights of women.  In Norway, trafficking in persons and excessive use of force remained a matter of concern.  Finally, she condemned the use of unilateral coercive measures. 

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) expressed her country’s commitment to uphold international human rights treaties and reiterated its commitment to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms.  Morocco had adopted a strategic approach to protecting human rights through the adoption of structural and sectoral measures and initiatives.  Those efforts had allowed Morocco to achieve improvements in the field of economic, social and cultural rights despite challenges such as the financial crisis.  In closing, she emphasized the importance of civil society in promoting human rights and underlined her Government’s commitment to ensuring their protection and participation.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS GRANT (Canada), noting the recent change of government in his country, said the peaceful passage of power was a hallmark of a strong democracy.  It was disappointing that the human rights situation in Iran had not improved, despite commitments made by its Government.  Such a trend showed the need for the Committee to continue to focus on human rights issues in Iran and elsewhere.  To effectively address emerging threats to human rights and to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized, “the tools we have at our disposal must be sharpened”.  The expanded role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was appreciated.  It was imperative that United Nations staff received human rights training and that information about violations was shared.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) noted the work of OHCHR and treaty bodies in the area of technical assistance and capacity-building in Member States, in line with General Assembly resolution 68/268.  It was important for the spirit and the letter of that resolution to be respected and for the views of Member States to be taken into account.  Since its creation in 2001, the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa had made an important contribution in enhancing the capacities of civil servants, legislators, military personnel, the police, student organizations and civil society.  Its programmes were welcomed in a subregion affected by recurring conflict, he said, adding that he hoped the High Commissioner would continue to provide it with sufficient resources.

MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said the international community must intensity its efforts and engage in cooperation and extensive dialogue with a view to addressing human rights challenges.  The promotion and protection of human rights was high on the Government’s agenda.  As a multi-ethnic country, Serbia attached special importance to the rights of ethnic minorities.  To that end, the Government had established a council on national minorities to guarantee their active participation in decision making.  However, the political, social and economic situation of the Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija was worrying, while more remained to be done to ensure their enjoyment of basic rights.  Since 1999, more than 220,000 Serbs and non-Albanians had been expelled from Kosovo and Metohija, and only 12,145 people had returned, he said.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) said the gender equality and empowerment of women and their sexual and reproductive health rights were important issues to the Government.  He then focused on the issue of breastfeeding, a topic that did not get much mention, in particular from men.  Although breastfeeding was not explicitly mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, it was implicit in goals 2, 3 and 4.  Scientific evidence showed that early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life would prevent at least 1 million infant deaths each year.  Further, undernutrition among infants could be virtually eliminated by early and exclusive breastfeeding, he said.  Breastfeeding also prevented obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and several of the most common cancers.  Given that, there was a need for high-level political commitment to empower women to breastfeed.  States needed to create supportive environments that empowered women to successfully combine breastfeeding with their many roles as mothers, nurturers, workers and students.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) pointed out the vulnerability of women and children during armed conflicts and expressed deep concerns at violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Iraq.  Opinions and beliefs should all be respected and protected, he said.  Moving on, he regretted that the representative of Serbia had referred to Kosovo as a province of Serbia and stressed that Kosovo was an independent country.  He supported, in that regard, Kosovo’s membership to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which would provide considerable support to the stability and economy of the “newest country in Europe”.

AMY MUEDIN of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that migrants faced unimaginable dangers at the hands of unscrupulous recruiters, smugglers or traffickers along their journey and also exploitation in the workplace.  Focusing particularly on migrant domestic workers, she said that performing domestic work in the privacy of the home could have an impact on the vulnerability of workers, as they were often seen as part of the family rather than rights-holders.  Domestic work was also often considered to be a temporary job with few prospects for permanent residence, naturalization or family reunification, undermining workers’ access to social protection.  Many also faced risks of exploitation and sexual violence.  In light of all those concerns, she encouraged States to ratify and implement International Labour Organization Convention No. 189 on decent work for domestic workers.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Egypt rejected the false allegations in the statement of the European Union.  Egypt had fully respected the rule of law in its fight against terrorism.  Right-wing extremism, xenophobia and ethnic profiling were some of the examples of human rights violations that had been taking place in European Union member States.

The representative of China firmly rejected gratuitous attacks regarding human rights in his country.  They were totally unacceptable.  There were many human rights problems in the European Union, which should reflect on its own problems and stop pointing a finger at others.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said Crimea had reserved its right to self-determination in full conformity with international law.  International human rights obligations were being respected.  Any information regarding human rights breaches were investigated by competent Russian bodies.

The representative of Serbia, exercising the right of reply, said that the Albanian delegate had unfortunately praised the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, which had been made in violation of international law.  Kosovo was a part of Serbia, not an independent State.  With regard to Kosovo joining UNESCO, he recalled that countless Serbian monuments there had been destroyed.

Taking the floor in exercise of the right of reply, the delegate from Sudan said, in response to the statement delivered by the representative of the European Union, that his country had made considerable progress in the field of human rights, dialogue and reconciliation.  He called on the European Union to put pressure on those movements that had refused to engage in dialogue with the Government, instead of criticizing Sudan.  He said the European Union should look at human rights violations within its borders before criticizing others.

The representative from Albania, exercising the right of reply, said that the statement just delivered by the Serbian delegate was unacceptable and did not reflect reality.  He reiterated his delegation’s support for Kosovo joining UNESCO, which would be highly beneficial for the entire region.

The representative of Ukraine said there were no Crimean people as such.  Crimea had many different nationalities, but it was an integral part of Ukraine.  It had been the subject of a military unification that had been recognized by the President of the Russian Federation.  In recent days, the director of the Ukrainian library in Moscow had been arrested in connection with some crazy allegations, while people connected with the only Crimean Tartar television station had been subjected to searches.

The representative of Egypt, taking the floor for a second time, said European Union member States had been misrepresenting the situation in his country, where measures were being implemented to safeguard the Egyptian people from tragedies seen in other parts of the region.  He also cited the Prime Minister of Greece, who had said he was ashamed to be a member of a European Union, which was sidestepping its responsibilities with regard to migrants.

For information media. Not an official record.