GA condemns Burma, DPRK, Iran

On Thursday, November 19, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted a resolution that “strongly condemns the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar,” with 92 countries voting in favor, 26 voting against, and 65 abstaining.  Sweden, representing the European Union, as the main sponsor of this resolution, explained “there are still over 2,000 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains in house arrest.  Fundamental freedoms in Myanmar, including the freedom of assembly and expression, remain severely restricted.”

The Third Committee also approved a resolution expressing “very serious concern at the persistence of continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”  97 nations voted in favor of the resolution, 19 voted against, and 65 abstained.  Sweden, for the European Union, was also this resolution’s main sponsor.  In its statement, it criticized the government of the DPRK for “the grave, widespread, and systematic violations of human rights” and noted that “the DPRK has made no substantial effort to meet earlier requests made by the international community.”

On Friday, November 20, a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Iran was approved by a vote of 74 in favor to 48 against, with 59 abstentions.  Before voting on the resolution, Canada, as the main sponsor, explained:

“What is routine is Iran’s consistent failure to live up to its international human rights obligations.  These failings were only made all the more evident following the June 12th presidential election when the use of force by Iranian security forces resulted in the death, injury and arrest of many individuals, when many of those who were detained were subject to torture and denied access to legal representation, when freedom of association, assembly and expression were drastically curtailed.”

Iran, however, argued that the draft text represented an example of an “unhealthy and dangerous trend” of politicization and abuse of human rights mechanisms.  After the vote, Iran considered the abstentions and absences to represent, alongside the “no” votes, support for Iran. 

Additionally, on November 19, the representative of Zambia, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft decision on the Report of the Human Rights Council.  The Committee will likely be taking action on this resolution within the next few days.

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