Cablegate: Unga Third Committee Takes Action On Human Rights


DE RUCNDT #1138/01 3401449
P 051449Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: On November 21, the UN General Assembly Third
Committee passed by vote draft resolutions on the human
rights situations in Iran, Burma, and the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea. Delegations opposing the draft
resolutions argued that the Human Rights Council, rather than
the General Assembly, was the proper forum to address human
rights concern, and that such resolutions constituted
interference in Member States, internal affairs. The
Committee rejected two no-action motions by comfortable
margins, one put forward by the Burmese delegation, and one
by the Iranian delegation. The Committee passed three other
draft resolutions by vote, and adopted four by consensus.


2. On November 21, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Third
Committee took action on draft resolutions on the human
rights situations in Iran, Burma, and the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea (DPRK), passing each by vote. Draft
resolution A/C.3/63/L.26, entitled "Situation of human rights
in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," passed in a
vote of 95 in favor (U.S.), 24 against, and 62 abstentions.
Draft resolution A/C.3/63/L.33, entitled "Situation of human
rights in Myanmar," passed in a vote of 89 in favor (U.S.),
29 against, and 63 abstentions, while the Burmese
delegation's no-action motion was rejected in a vote of 90
against (U.S.), 54 in favor, and 34 abstentions. Draft
resolution A/C.3/63/L.40, entitled "Situation of human rights
in the Islamic Republic of Iran," passed in a vote of 70 in
favor (U.S.), 51 against, and 60 abstentions, while the
Iranian delegation's no-action motion was rejected in a vote
of 81 against (U.S.), 71 in favor, and 28 abstentions. The
United States is a co-sponsor of all three country-specific
human rights draft resolutions.

3. The DPRK Deputy PermRep issued a statement calling the
draft resolution on the situation in his country "the product
of a political conspiracy to enforce a change to the ideology
and system of the DPRK." The draft's co-authors, he said,
were "blindly obeying the United States, the worst peace
disturber and human rights violator of the world." The
Burmese PermRep called the draft resolution on Burma
substantively and procedurally "flawed," and accused the
co-sponsors of exploiting human rights for political
purposes. Further, he said the presentation of the draft to
the Committee demonstrated an "utter lack of respect" for the
Human Rights Council (HRC), and was "clearly a case of
selectively targeting a developing country that is in
disfavor with the powerful Western countries." The Advisor
to the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs called the draft
resolution on Iran "unwarranted, non-objective and
politically motivated," and said it contained a number of
"falsified and unsubstantiated elements" that contradicted
the real human rights situation in Iran. He accused Canada
(the main sponsor), the United States and Israel
(co-sponsors) of committing gross human rights violations,
and called for the international community to pay attention
to the human rights situation in all countries "without
exception or ulterior considerations."

4. Delegations issuing general statements or Explanations of
Vote on the country-specific human rights draft resolutions
largely argued against the drafts on the basis of one or both
of two points. First, many delegations argued that the UNGA
was not the appropriate body in which to address human rights
concerns in specific countries, as the HRC had been
established for exactly that purpose. They emphasized that
the HRC's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was the best
mechanism to examine the human rights situations in Member
States, and that unlike the draft resolutions, the UPR
applied equally to all States, and was transparent,
forward-looking, and non-confrontational. Second, several of
the drafts, opponents maintained that passing the draft
resolutions would constitute interference in States,
internal affairs, contrary to the principles enshrined in the
UN Charter. Egypt, Syria, Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned
Movement), Venezuela, Belarus and Malaysia were among the
most vocal opponents to the draft resolutions, in addition to
the countries named in the drafts. They and other opponents
called the draft resolutions "politicized," "selective," and
"one-sided," claiming that they applied double-standards,
undermined the HRC's work, and damaged the Third Committee's
credibility. A fuller reflection of the debate can be found


5. Also on November 21, the Committee adopted the following

draft resolutions by consensus: A/C.3/63/L.32, entitled
"Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of
human rights;" A/C.3/63/L.41, entitled "International
Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Forced
Disappearance;" A/C.3/63/L.38/Revision 1, entitled
"Protection of migrants;" and A/C.3/63/L.13/Revision 1,
entitled "Trafficking in women and girls." The United States
is a co-sponsor of draft resolution A/C.3/63/L.13/Revision 1.
The United States delivered an Explanation of Position on
draft resolution A/C.3/63/L.38/Revision 1; the complete text
of this and all other U.S. statements can be found at

6. The Committee passed three other draft resolutions by
vote. Draft resolution A/C.3/63/L.31, entitled "Human rights
and unilateral coercive measures," passed in a vote (called
by the United States) of 124 in favor, 52 against (U.S.), and
no abstentions. Draft resolution A/C.3/63/L.44, entitled
"Promotion of a democratic and equitable international
order," passed in a vote (called by the United States) of 120
in favor, 52 against (U.S.), and seven abstentions. Draft
resolution A/C.3/63/L.53/Revision 1, entitled "International
Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination," passed in a vote of 178 in favor (U.S.),
none against, and no abstentions. Operative Paragraph 13,
which authorizes the treaty body of the Convention to meet
for an additional week per session in 2009-2011, passed in a
separate vote (called by the U.S. for budgetary reasons) of
165 in favor, one against (U.S.), and eight abstentions.
(NOTE: The Egyptian delegate called for the vote on the
draft resolution after a long procedural argument with the
Committee Chair. The delegate disagreed with the Chair's
ruling that a resolution could be adopted by consensus after
a separate paragraph vote had taken place. Several other
delegations weighed in, agreeing with the Chair's ruling.
While repeatedly indicating his disagreement with the ruling,
the Egyptian delegate declined to formally appeal the Chair's
decision, which would have resulted in a Committee vote on
the decision.)

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