Third Committee Approves Five Drafts on Situations in Syria, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, amid Debate over Merits of Country-Specific Texts
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved five draft resolutions today, four covering human rights situations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Iran and Crimea, as well as one focused on a training centre for South-West Asia and the Arab region.
In a day of heated debate, delegates called into question the use of selective country-specific resolutions, with Venezuela’s representative, on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, pointing to the Human Rights Council as the body responsible for considering those issues. Pakistan’s delegate said the promotion and protection of human rights was a shared responsibility, achieved only through cooperation. The representative of Belarus, echoing remarks by numerous others, said country-specific texts only created barriers.
Against that backdrop, a draft on human rights in Iran was approved by a recorded vote of 83 in favour to 30 against, with 68 abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly would express serious concern over use of the death penalty and urge Iran to eliminate all discrimination and rights violations against women and girls. Iran’s representative rejected the text, stressing that the situation in his country did not warrant a special mandate. Iran had consistently responded to communication from special mandate holders and voluntarily submitted its midterm universal periodic review to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Turning to the human rights in the autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol, the Committee approved the related text by a vote of 71 in favour to 25 against, with 77 abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly would urge the Russian Federation to uphold all its international legal obligations as an occupying Power and request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare the second thematic report on the topic by the end of the current session. The representative of the Russian Federation called the Third Committee “a theatre of the absurd”, as Ukraine’s delegate was trying to advance his country’s own political notions through the draft.
In a departure from past practice, the Committee approved the draft on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea without its customary vote on the matter, which would have the Assembly condemn long-standing and gross rights violations in that country. The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the text as “a product of the political and military confrontation and plot conspiracy of the United Nations and other hostile forces”.
Delegates heavily debated the draft resolution on the situation in Syria, approving it late in the day by recorded vote of 108 in favour to 17 against, with 58 abstentions. By its terms, the Assembly would urge States, especially members of the International Syria Support Group, to create conditions for negotiations on a political solution to the conflict and demand that Syrian authorities meet their responsibilities to protect citizens. Syria’s delegate said the draft reflected the hysteria of the Saudi regime, which was colluding with Qatar to destabilize his country. He called Saudi Wahabism a weapon of mass destruction.
A final draft on the United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region passed with a recorded vote of 178 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Mozambique, Syria). By its terms, the Assembly would note with appreciation its human rights capacity-building, technical assistance and training programmes. Syria’s delegate objected to the draft as a “rabid attempt” by Qatar to seek funding from the United Nations, while his counterpart from Qatar said the centre was pivotal in helping countries build their human rights capacities.
Egypt’s delegate rounded out the day by introducing a draft on “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Support for it would send a message of hope to Palestinians that “the world is with them”, he affirmed.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 16 November, to take action on proposals.
Rights of Peoples to Self-Determination
The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), introduced a draft resolution titled, “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (document A/C.3/72/L.59*). The draft stressed the need to protect the territorial integrity of areas occupied by Israel, and affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-determination. He appealed to all Member States to support the text and send a message of hope to the Palestinian people that “the world is with them” in achieving their goal of self-determination and establishing a State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The representative of Syria, speaking in a point of order, said that while his country was not an OIC member, it would like to take part in sponsoring the draft resolution.
A Secretariat official said he would confirm that Syria was not a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to which Syria’s representative replied in point of order that his country was not an OIC member and he had not been part of any resolution tabled by that organization.
Human Rights Training Centre
The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region” (document A/C.3/72/L.25).
The representative of Qatar said the draft text recognized progress made by the centre in the promotion and protection of human rights and advocacy in the region. It also noted the assistance it had provided through capacity-building activities, technical assistance and training programmes. The text further addressed common-interest issues in the field of human rights.
The representative of Syria, in a general statement, requested a recorded vote on the draft, citing Qatar’s “rabid attempt” to propagate a draft resolution seeking funding from the United Nations budget after Qatar itself had offered to fund and host the centre. Changes made by Qatar authorities regarding the centre’s funding imposed a burden on the Organization. He called on Member States to follow up on the centre’s activities, stressing that blatant regional enmity against Syria had been seen, including by Qatar itself. The Doha-based centre was not regional, but rather a Qatari centre serving a national agenda.
The representative of Qatar said in a general statement that the text reaffirmed the need to promote and protect human rights in the region. The insults made by Syria to Qatar and the spread of lies unrelated to the draft resolution were not productive.
The representative of the United States said in explanation of vote before the vote that the centre played an important role for countries seeking to build their human rights capacities. The United States strongly supported the work of the centre and would vote yes on the draft.
The Secretary noted that the United States statement would be considered a general statement, as the country was co‑sponsoring the resolution.
The Committee then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 178 in favour to none against, with 2 (Syria, Mozambique) abstentions.
Human Rights Questions
The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized the role of the Human Rights Council as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly responsible for considering human rights situations in all countries through its universal periodic review. He expressed deep concern over the selective adoption of country-specific resolutions in the Third Committee. The universal periodic review was the main intergovernmental cooperative mechanism to review national human rights issues in all countries without distinction. He reiterated the Movement’s condemnation of gross and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Secretary said that as the programme budget implications related to the draft text on Myanmar were not ready, action on that text would be postponed until 16 November.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Next, the Committee considered a draft titled “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (A/C.3/72/L.40*).
The representative of Estonia, on behalf of the European Union and Japan, said the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was of great concern, noting that violations were overlooked due to the headline-grabbing nuclear issue. It was worrisome that accepted recommendations by the universal periodic review and those of the Commission of Inquiry had not been implemented, she said, noting that this year’s text drew attention to abuses against non‑citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and called for consular protections for them. She called on the Government to heed the universal periodic review recommendations to stop human rights violations and bring perpetrators to justice.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country categorically rejected the draft resolution which represented “a product of the political and military confrontation and plot conspiracy of the United Nations and other hostile forces”. Sanctions imposed against his country had been vicious and eliminated the rights to survival and development of its citizens. They had cut off the delivery of medical and educational equipment, as well as food for children. The European Union should address its own crimes against humanity, such as xenophobia and Islamophobia, while Japan still refused to admit its own crimes against the Korean people during the Second World War. He called on Member States to oppose the draft with a clear statement of disassociation from consensus.
The representative of Japan said the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was of great concern to the international community. More than half the population lacked food and medical care, while many others had been deprived water and sanitation. Rather than meeting the needs of its people, the Government continued to divert resources to nuclear weapons and ballistic equipment. On the issue of abductions, he said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had abducted Japanese citizens and many years had passed without their return. He demanded their immediate return and strongly urged that country to resolve outstanding human rights issues.
The representative of Syria, endorsing the position of the Non‑Aligned Movement, rejected selectivity around human rights issues, an approach which sowed discord among nations. The draft resolution interfered with the domestic affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Rejecting all attempts to violate State sovereignty, he appealed to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to coexist peacefully with countries in the region.
The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
The representative of Singapore said her country opposed country-specific resolutions.
The representative of Iran said country-specific resolutions undermined cooperation and dialogue, stressing that the universal periodic review was an effective tool to assess human rights situations and disassociating his delegation from consensus on the resolution.
The representative of China said his country opposed country-specific resolutions and would not join consensus on the draft.
The representative of the Russian Federation said her country did not agree with human rights bodies considering country-specific resolutions as they would worsen confrontation among States. The universal periodic review was sufficient for assessing in-country human right situations. Her country dissociated itself from the resolution.
The representative of Australia, speaking also on behalf of Iceland, Canada, Norway and Liechtenstein, among other countries, expressed concern over the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as more than half the population had been deprived of food and medical care. She called on the Government to ensure the welfare and dignity of its people.
The representative of Belarus, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said country-specific resolutions were not useful as they created barriers among countries. The universal periodic review provided a balanced analysis of human rights situations in each country and she disassociated Belarus from the draft resolution.
The representative of Venezuela reiterated his country’s position on country-specific resolutions, stressing that cooperation and dialogue must be upheld in order to promote and protect human rights, and that the universal periodic review should be prioritized. Venezuela dissociated itself from consensus on the resolution.
The representative of Costa Rica said in a general statement that all issues related to countries must be evaluated on principles. The Human Rights Council had mechanisms to examine specific cases. The universal periodic review was the appropriate tool to examine human rights situations, making it appropriate to refer specific examinations to that body.
The representative of Cuba endorsed the statement by the Non‑Aligned Movement, and in his national capacity disassociated from consensus on draft “L.40”, saying that genuine international cooperation based on objectivity and non‑selectivity was the only path to pursue. The universal periodic review should examine human rights cases to ensure proper respect for the country concerned. Cuba could not join consensus on the resolution, yet its opposition to the selective mandate did not undermine the value of considering unresolved issues requiring the agreement of all parties concerned.
A draft text titled “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (document A/C.3/72/L.41) was then introduced.
The representative of Canada, introducing draft “L.41”, first expressed condolences to victims of the recent earthquake in the region. Turning to the draft, she said the scope and gravity of human rights violations in Iran remained high, with the number of executions being particularly concerning. Numerous cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, the lack of due process and restrictions on freedom of expression were also of deep concern. Canada had sought to engage as many countries as possible, which had resulted in a draft reflecting the concerns of countries from around the world. Addressing human rights issues was at the core of the Third Committee’s mandate. Through the resolution, the international community could continue to express its desire to see Iran live up to its human rights obligations.
Committee Chair EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) also expressed condolences to the victims of the recent earthquake.
The representative of Iran remembered the victims of the earthquake which had struck Iran and its brotherly country Iraq, thanking the Chair and all others for their condolences. The Third Committee’s time was being consumed by a pointless and futile draft resolution, which was a disservice to the human rights cause. The hypocrisy and double standards were mind-boggling, he said, noting that there were many cases of Canadian non‑compliance with human rights obligations. Police brutality and the murder of indigenous peoples were well-documented, he said, noting that indigenous women and girls continued to suffer. He underscored that Iran had never practiced slavery, colonialism, or promoted racism. It was concerning that countries that had engaged in all those practices now used human rights to advance short-sighted interests. Canada insisted on the draft resolution despite Israel being one of the co‑sponsors, and had not even waited for the Secretary-General’s report to become available. The situation of human rights in Iran was by no means special; nor did it warrant a special mandate. Iran had regularly and consistently responded to communication from special mandate holders, he underscored, while voluntarily submitting its midterm universal periodic review to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Chair noted that a recorded vote had been requested.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said in a general statement that his country appreciated Canada’s tabling of the draft resolution and efforts to remove any criticism against Islamic Shariah law in the text. Saudi Arabia would support the draft, as it highlighted the rights violations taking place in Iran, including the forced arrest and torture of minorities. Violations perpetrated by Iranian authorities had also extended to Syria through the practice of sectarian cleansing, the emptying of villages and towns where people of certain sects lived, and discrimination against Arabs.
The representative of Syria, in explanation of vote, associated himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and rejected the draft resolution, as it was politicized and sought to ruin Iran’s reputation. Iran was already suffering under sanctions. The text was full of fabricated reports submitted by agencies which aimed to destabilize Iran. He asked Saudi Arabia’s delegate to refrain from naming his country in future statements.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Group rejected country-specific resolutions on human rights as they strayed beyond the purview of the Third Committee. The universal periodic review should be used to assess human rights situations in countries, stressing that country-specific texts undermined the mandate of the Human Rights Council.
The representative of the Russian Federation called country-specific resolutions counterproductive, stressing that a “lecturing” tone would not facilitate any discussion on human rights. His country would vote against the draft.
The representative of Belarus opposed country-specific resolutions, stressing the effectiveness of the universal periodic review which incentivized Governments to improve the exercise of human rights.
The representative of Cuba said he would vote against the text due to his country’s principled position against country-specific resolutions. Maintaining the issue on the agenda was based on a desire to pursue a political agenda. Any imposed mandate based on double standards was doomed to fail, he said, rejecting the use of human rights to justify strategies to sow the seeds of instability in regions.
The representative of Pakistan said in explanation of vote before the vote that promotion and protection of human rights was a shared responsibility which could only be achieved through cooperation, rather than selectivity. Iran’s cooperation with the universal periodic review and with all treaty bodies to which it was party reflected its respect for international commitments. The universal periodic review was the main mechanism for reviewing human rights at the international level, and Pakistan would vote against the draft.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed condolences to the earthquake victims, and associated himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, rejecting all country-specific resolutions. They had nothing to do with genuine promotion and protection of human rights, as they only brought about confrontation. The universal periodic review was the mechanism for considering all countries’ human rights on an equal footing. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would vote against the draft text.
The representative of China expressed condolences to the earthquake victims, saying his country stood ready to provide assistance to the two affected countries upon request. He rejected politicization of the issue, saying China would vote against the draft resolution. The international community should view progress Iran had made on human rights in an objective manner.
The Committee then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 83 in favour to 30 against, with 68 abstentions.
The representative of Mexico, speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, expressed solidarity with Iran regarding the earthquake. Mexico had abstained from the vote. A certain degree of progress had been made and he urged Iran to both implement the Bill of Rights and endorse recommendations by the Special Rapporteur. Concerns remained over the rising use of the death penalty, and existence of barriers to gender equality. He expressed hope that amendments to the anti‑narcotics law might reduce use of the death penalty.
The representative of Japan expressed condolences to those affected by the earthquake. His country would continue to constructively engage with Iran on human rights. Challenges remained in Iran, including around promoting the freedom of expression, both online and offline.
The representative of Brazil expressed condolences for the loss of life after the earthquake which had struck Iran. Brazil had abstained from the vote on the grounds that a more constructive and less politicized approach should be used. It continued to follow, with concern, the use of capital punishment, especially among juvenile offenders, and he expressed concern about restrictions on religious minorities, such as the Bahá’í.
The representative of Chile conveyed condolences for the earthquake which had struck Iran. Chile had abstained from the vote and he appealed to Iran to devise ways to tackle unresolved human rights issues. Human rights should not be understood as the rights of an elite, he said, adding that Iran should continue cooperating with the human rights system.
The representative of Ecuador expressed solidarity with earthquake victims, underscoring his country’s position that all countries should be examined in the same manner.
The representative of Iran, in a general statement, said a staggering number of Yemeni children had been killed by Saudi missiles, and thousands of Syrian children by terrorists funded by Saudi Arabia. He also highlighted rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the ruthless silencing of all dissidents. The country enslaved migrants who lived in abject conditions.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, in a general statement, said the statement by his Iranian counterpart had hit a nerve because he spoke of Sunni Arabs in Iran. He asked Iran to rectify its problems before criticizing others.
Next, the Committee considered a draft resolution on the “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” (document A/C.3/72/L.42). The representative of Ukraine, introducing the draft, said it was a follow-up to last year’s resolution. The human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, continued to deteriorate, and there was no sign that Russian authorities had complied with the requirements of the earlier resolution. Murder, harassment, detention and persecution of journalists and rights defenders persisted. Russian occupying authorities had also incarcerated Crimean Tatars. Ukraine was committed to protecting the rights of Crimean citizens, he said, stressing that the draft was not country-specific and urging Member States to adopt it by consensus.
The representative of Azerbaijan reaffirmed his country’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, urging that all conflicts between Member States be resolved through political and diplomatic means.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in a general statement, called the Committee “a theatre of the absurd”, as Ukraine’s delegate had put forward his country’s own political notions through the draft resolution. The text was not about human rights. It was yet another attempt to change the status of Crimea despite the will of its people. There was no armed conflict in Crimea. Such approaches, under the guise of human rights rhetoric, discredited the Third Committee. It was a “bad joke” when Ukraine demanded that education be conducted in the language of national minorities, when Ukraine itself had deprived millions of children from being educated in their own tongue. The authors of the text were allegedly concerned about the fate of religious communities, yet condoned the takeover of a church. Supporting the text would send the signal that Ukraine bore no responsibility for the situation in Crimea. The Russian Federation called for a vote and he urged all to reject the text.
The representative of Syria, in a general statement, categorically rejected the draft resolution on Crimea, calling it a politicized text which had nothing to do with reality. It was unfortunate that the Third Committee was wasting time debating propaganda, rather than engaging in dialogue on the promotion and protection of human rights. Crimea was an autonomous entity and the draft did not reflect that reality. It was simply an attempt to interfere in internal affairs; it had nothing to do with the Third Committee. Stressing that country-specific resolutions undermined the principle of non‑selectivity, he said human rights situations must be considered within the universal periodic review, not the Third Committee, a point that had been agreed during the Human Rights Council’s establishment in 2006.
The representative of Canada expressed concern about the situation in Crimea and Sevastopol, which had not improved, and about limits on the freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and the use of cruel and inhuman treatment. Canada would vote in favour of the text and urged others to do the same.
The representative of the United Kingdom, in a general statement, said the primary reason for the resolution was the numerous human rights concerns in the occupied territories of Ukraine, highlighted in a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which detailed arbitrary arrests, detentions, and an overall decline in human rights standards. He expressed deep concern over the persecution of the Crimean Tatar community, stressing also that many Ukrainians remained in prison for speaking up against the Russian annexation. It was deplorable that Russian authorities had denied human rights monitoring bodies access to the occupied territories of Ukraine and urged all Member States to support the draft.
The representative of Venezuela said in a general statement that her country rejected country-specific resolutions and would vote against the draft.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said in a general statement that country-specific resolutions fostered politicization. The universal periodic review was the proper mechanism for addressing all countries’ situations on equal footing. He rejected the draft and would vote against it.
The representative of Iran said the blame game, and “naming and shaming approach”, had destroyed the atmosphere of dialogue and mutual understanding.
The representative of Belarus said it was unacceptable to politicize human rights. Country-specific resolutions had been rejected by the countries in question and would not resolve such issues, she said, stressing that the universal periodic review carried out a balanced analysis of human rights situations. Belarus would vote against the draft.
The representative of China said his Government opposed country-specific resolutions and they went beyond the Third Committee’s mandate, and would vote against the draft.
The representative of Pakistan, in an explanation of vote, said human rights issues should be resolved through cooperation among States. He advocated greater coherence between the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council, adding that Pakistan would abstain from the vote.
The draft resolution was adopted by a vote of 71 in favour to 25 against, with 77 abstentions.
The representative of Argentina said in explanation of vote after the vote that the resolution contained provisions straying beyond the remit of the Third Committee. There was a need to protect human rights in line with principles of international law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law. There must be unfettered access to aid in all areas pursuant to international norms.
The representative of Switzerland said she had voted in favour of the resolution. International monitoring must be more robust, and violations of international humanitarian law addressed, holding all perpetrators accountable. She called on all stakeholders to honour their commitments, stressing that resolutions should focus foremost on social situations affecting people across the globe, and that the resolution strayed outside that mandate. Switzerland would continue to support, in principle, country-specific resolutions.
The representative of Mexico said matters of territorial integrity should not be addressed by the Third Committee, and thus, his country had abstained from the vote on “L.42”. Mexico condemned all breaches of sovereignty, and had voted in favour of an earlier resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Denials of access to Crimea for the human rights monitoring mission were concerning.
The representative of Brazil said his country had abstained, as the text did not help reduce tensions. Brazil supported all efforts to prevent human rights violations on the ground.
The representative of Hungary, noting that her country had not been in a position to co-sponsor the resolution, said the right of national minorities to receive education in their mother tongue was important. She called on Ukraine to respect the rights of minorities living under its jurisdiction.
The representative of Cyprus disassociated from the paragraphs of the draft resolution dealing with Crimean Tatars.
The representative of Greece said his country supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine and had voted in favour of the draft resolution. However, he expressed concern over the situation of the Crimean Tatars and fully supported the statements made by the representative of Cyprus on the matter.
The representative of Singapore reiterated her country’s rejection of country-specific resolutions, stressing that her vote on the draft did not alter Singapore’s position on human rights issues and calling on all States to protect fundamental freedoms.
The representative of Georgia expressed strong support for the draft resolution, which aimed to address serious human rights violations caused by the occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol. The people of Crimea had been subjected to violence, forced disappearances and other violations documented by OHCHR. The draft was an instrument to ensure that the Russian Federation complied with international obligations and allowed human rights monitoring bodies access to Crimea.
The final draft taken up by the Committee today was titled “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic” (document A/C.3/72/L.54).
The representative of Saudi Arabia, introducing the text, said his country had tabled the draft because the unchanged situation prevailed in Syria. The text condemned rights violations in Syria, whomever the perpetrators. It was in line with United Nations reports, according to which Syrian authorities bore responsibility for violations. Syria had failed to protect its citizens against terrorists, sectarian militias and criminal gangs. The resolution called for the return of refugees in a noble and dignified manner, and for humanitarian access to all those in need. It also called on Syrian authorities to end their forced evacuation and to stop sectarian cleansing.
Noting that the text called for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and all foreign forces and militias and mercenaries, it also demanded that they leave Syria to the Syrians. Syria would argue that it was fighting terrorism, he said, but when Syria’s arguments ran out, that country’s ambassador would distract by pointing to Saudi Arabia and other sponsors of the draft resolution. The Committee had not fallen for that trick in the past. He urged the Committee to remember the pictures of children who had been swallowed by the sea, urging them to vote for humanity. He made two oral corrections to the text, pointing to a repetition of paragraph 39 in the text, and adding six words to operative paragraph 43 line 9.
The Secretary confirmed that the duplicated paragraph would be deleted and noted the correction to the operative paragraph.
The representative of Syria congratulated his Saudi counterpart for the fact that Israel had joined the list of co-sponsors, a demonstration of the secret alliance between both countries. Saudi Arabia and Qatar had spent $137 billion “destroying” Syria, he stressed, adding that the money was being used to attract terrorists to Syria. Those countries had also devoted large sums of money to destroy Yemen, Iraq and Libya, with Saudi-financed terror tarnishing the image of Muslims around the world.
Describing the draft as “futile”, he said its sponsors included financiers of terror and colonizers, and asked how they could be trusted when they pillaged the wealth of nations and did not respect basic human rights. The politicization of the United Nations would render it a futile tool used by those wanting to play politics, he said, calling the authors of the draft a coalition of Governments that terrorized one another, only uniting to promote terrorism and contribute to the spilling of blood. He urged delegates to search “Raqqa dirty secret” on their smart phones to witness first-hand what those countries had done to prevent the freeing of Syrian lands from terrorists.
The Kings and Princes of Saudi Arabia were responsible for evil, he said, stressing that the United Nations should be ashamed to agree to Saudi blackmail. The draft represented the hysteria of the Saudi regime and its friends and sponsors. Saudi Arabia and Qatar were colluding to destabilize Syria. The resolution was a clear contradiction, as its sponsors had terrible human rights track records, he said, calling Saudi Wahabism a weapon of mass destruction.
Turkey had contributed to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, he said, having opened its doors to foreign combatants, as indicated in Security Council reports on the matter. Combatants were transporting weapons from Libya into Syria through Turkey. If Syria waited for the United Nations to protect it from terrorism, the scourge would never end. Syrians were writing a new victory thanks to their heroism in the face of terror, he said, calling on Member States not to fall into the “Saudi and Qatari trap” and to vote against the politicized draft.
The representative of the United States in a general statement supported the resolution and called on all countries to vote in favour of it. The Syrian Government was responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations inflicted on the Syrian people. The draft referenced the attack on Khan Sheikoun, which marked the fourth time the Joint Investigative Mechanism had confirmed the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. The United States denounced all those heinous acts and called for both accountability and an end to the conflict.
The representative of Liechtenstein, also on behalf of Australia, Canada, Iceland and New Zealand, said the draft resolution took into account recent developments in Syria, and that the most recent report had assigned responsibility for the chemical weapons attacks to the Syrian Government. Those well-documented crimes might constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and should not go unpunished. The Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, and failing that, explore other ways of closing the impunity gap, he said, stressing that the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism established by the General Assembly could do so. With that measure, the Assembly had asserted its role in ensuring accountability.
The representative of Iran displayed a photo of an Iranian citizen who had been beheaded on-camera, saying that that young man and others like him were the true fighters against extremism. It was absurd that the sponsors of the draft resolution, including Saudi Arabia, were also the main sponsors of terrorism in Syria including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and its affiliates. As the international community inched closer to defeating terrorist groups, their mentors had grown upset, worrying about the money spent to destabilize the region which now seemed to be a lost investment. He urged the Committee to be mindful of how votes could be interpreted; the people of Syria and the Syrian army would defeat terrorists and their allies, including Saudi Arabia.
The representative of Turkey said the crisis in Syria had begun with the violent repression by the Syrian regime. The human rights situation in Syria was deteriorating, with the regime employing all instruments to prolong its grip on power and the Syrian people being brutally punished with chemical weapons, targeting of civilians, sexual violence, torture, starvation and siege. The persistent lies of the regime’s representative did not change that. Highlighting the need to end impunity, she said that while the text’s approval would not heal the suffering, it would demonstrate international solidarity with Syrians in their pursuit of accountability, underscoring Turkey’s support for the measure.
The representative of Venezuela reaffirmed his rejection of country-specific resolutions and special procedures, stressing that the continued adoption of such drafts strayed beyond the Committee’s purview. Dialogue with concerned States was the only path to improving human rights and the universal periodic review must be prioritized.
The representative of Qatar said the Syrian crisis involved grave, systematic rights abuses. The situation was deteriorating with indescribable suffering by Syrians, she said, calling for an end to violations by all stakeholders in Syria. There must be a free and fair judicial process to prosecute perpetrators of the most serious crimes in Syria.
The representative of Switzerland expressed concern over violations of human rights and humanitarian law by all parties involved in the Syrian conflict. He noted with regret that several operative paragraphs in the draft had weakened the text’s applicability. Given the systematic, repeated nature of violations, there was a need to shed light on all violations regardless of the perpetrator. He reiterated appeals for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in explanation of vote, objected to all country-specific resolutions. Human rights must be addressed through dialogue while respecting national sovereignty, he said, pointing to the universal periodic review as the adequate approach for addressing those issues. He would vote against the draft.
The representative of the Russian Federation said she would vote against the draft. Efforts were being made to transform the Committee into a body that “rubberstamped” country-specific resolutions and the current draft was a perfect example of that “nefarious” practice. She called on States supporting it to acknowledge that its adoption would in no way help stabilize the situation in Syria. It failed to account for recent progress in combating terrorist groups, she said, calling for an end to the “information war” being waged against Syria. The Russian Federation had responded to appeals from the Syrian Government and was providing assistance in the fight against terrorism. She called on all States wanting to help Syria to vote against the draft.
The representative of Brazil, in an explanation of vote, said that while his country would vote in favour of the draft, it remained imbalanced. In the midst of a conflict disregarding human rights and international humanitarian law, it was paramount that the text was based on a fact-based review of the situation. The time was overdue to find common ground and hold perpetrators accountable.
The representative of Belarus endorsed the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, adding that her country did not support country-specific resolutions. The universal periodic review had made it possible to encourage States to resolve human rights issues. Belarus would vote against the draft.
The representative of Cuba said his country would vote against the draft because it fostered a punitive approach which did not consider the interests of the country concerned. Politically resolving the conflict would not be achieved through resolutions which undermined the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country in question. A peaceful solution was required, he said, and the Third Committee should foster cooperation with respect for Syria’s sovereignty. The international community must abandon selective endeavours hindering the search for such solutions.
The Committee then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 108 in favour to 17 against, with 58 abstentions.
The representative of Egypt, in explanation of vote, said that since 2011, his country had maintained an extraordinary stance on the Syria resolution. Egypt rejected all resolutions that did not have the support of the country concerned, he said, expressing regret that the text was being routinely addressed in the Third Committee. The draft lacked balance on finding those responsible for rights violations and contained many references to the International Criminal Court, on which Egypt’s position was well-known, he said. For such reasons, Egypt had abstained.
The representative of Syria responding to comments by his counterpart from Turkey, described a situation in which a terrorist working for Turkish intelligence in Libya had transferred two litres of sarin gas from that country to the airport in Istanbul on a civilian flight. Referring to an attack in Khan al‑Assal, he described a conversation with former Secretary-General Ban Ki‑moon, saying he had promised assistance in confirming whether gas had been used, but not by whom. The Commission of Inquiry had failed in its investigation, just as the Joint Investigative Mission had. There was a conspiracy between Qatar and terrorists to remove and kidnap members of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Qatar lacked a constitution and an electoral regime, he said, and millions of foreign workers had been brought there to work in conditions of slavery. Further, a Qatari poet had been imprisoned for life for daring to write a poem in which he criticised the human rights situation in Qatar.
The representative of China said human rights must be addressed through dialogue and mutual respect. He rejected country-specific resolutions and had voted against the draft.
The representative of Lebanon said her Government had adopted a policy of disassociation since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, and as such, had abstained.
The representative of Argentina reiterated his commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. Yet, due to deep concerns over the situation in the country, he had supported the draft. Argentina attached particular importance to political dialogue as the most realistic way of achieving peace and condemned the use of chemical weapons by any party. The protection of refugees was a priority, with his Government providing assistance to relevant bodies helping Syrian refugees.
The representative of Ecuador expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Syria and urged an end to chemical weapons use. He expressed firm condemnation of human rights violations and expressed solidarity with the Syrian people. He said the principle of non-interference had been trampled by the draft, which had also failed to fully consider all parties involved in the Syrian conflict. Human rights issues must be addressed by the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review, and as such, Ecuador had abstained.
The representative of Libya disassociated from the draft as it strayed from addressing the situation in Syria and included language that politicized the matter. She expressed regret over statements by Syria’s delegate and strongly rejected any reference to the trafficking of weapons from Libya.
The representative of Iran in an explanation of vote said Saudi Arabia, due to its shameful record both at home and abroad, had no moral competence to lecture others on human rights. The resolution falsely labelled those fighting terrorism in Syria, he said, clarifying that the two Iranian forces mentioned in paragraph 28 were part of Iran’s regular armed forces, deployed in Syria on an advisory basis at the Government’s invitation. The draft would not dissuade Iran from its fight against violent extremism.
The representative of Saudi Arabia in a general statement thanked all Member States for the clear message sent that events in Syria had violated human rights not only in that country but around the world. Syria’s delegate had attempted to divert attention from his own country to Saudi Arabia, and was even unaware of who was king of Saudi Arabia. Given such ignorance, it was up to the Committee to decide on other information offered by Syria’s delegate. To comments by Iran’s representative, he said the Committee could recount events around the deaths of thousands of people, for whom Iranian authorities bore responsibility.
The representative of Qatar said support for the draft had demonstrated that the international community would not stand for human rights violations in Syria. Qatar would continue shouldering its responsibilities in that regard.
The representative of Japan welcomed the text’s approval and expressed grave concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria. Expressing hope that violence would cease, he condemned in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons. Any such use in Syria called for renewal of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism.
The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc was appalled by the situation in Syria and strongly condemned attacks against civilians and humanitarian personnel. Condemning in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons, she reaffirmed the commitment to combating terrorists operating in Syria. Impunity for crimes committed in Syria was unacceptable and the situation must be referred to the International Criminal Court, she said, calling for Security Council action to that end.
She also urged the Council to maintain the investigative capacity of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and United Nations joint mechanism. A political solution to the crisis must be pursued, she stressed, underscoring the bloc’s commitment to democracy as a means to promote human rights.
The representative of Turkey welcomed the draft’s approval and rejected Syria’s allegations against her country.
The representative of Syria thanked all countries that voted against the draft or abstained.