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Anne Bayefsky

Country-Specific Criticism at the UN: A No-No

Monday, November 28, 2005

The debate over country-specific resolutions -- resolutions which specifically name states that violate human rights standards -- now rages at the General Assembly. The issue is also in the center of a debate over the attempt to reform the UN Human Rights Commission. UN representatives of dictators far and wide are yelling foul; "naming and shaming" is just plain unneighborly, uncooperative behavior. Talking is a better way of resolving genocide, rape, and torture. Any attempt to do more is an imperialist plot.

But rather than describing the "dialogue" second-hand, we have provided you with the unadulterated transcript of a recent meeting of the UN General Assembly's Third Committee.

UN members are sharply divided over the legitimacy of such resolutions except in the case of Israel. While there are 19-21 resolutions adopted critical of Israel every year at the General Assembly, and another 4-5 at the Commission on Human Rights, there are only 5-10 such resolutions on any other state adopted by either body.

Here is a Third Committee transcript from Monday, November 17, 2005. The Third Committee is a committee-of-the-whole; its membership includes all 191 member states. It has responsibility over social and humanitarian affairs, including human rights.

The following is the dialogue which ensued over the particular country-specific resolution involving North Korea. The dialogue was repeated in almost exactly the same form and terms for every country-specific resolution which the Third Committee considered this fall. In the end, six such country-specific resolutions (not including those relating to Israel in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Committees) were adopted. But the reluctant support of many states took its toll and only seven such resolutions were even tabled. The seventh country-specific resolution on Sudan was defeated by way of a procedural maneuver, a successful motion to take no action.

The 21st century version of UN-eze for "keep-out" -- a broadly successful strategy when it comes to human rights at the General Assembly -- is highlighted in red.

The position of Western states and some others

UNITED KINGDOM ON BEHALF OF THE EUROPEAN UNION ET AL

UNITED KINGDOM: Mr. Chairman, thank you. On behalf of the European Union and the cosponsors listed in L.48, Albania, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Japan, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey and the United States of America, I have the honor to introduce under agenda item 71C a draft resolution entitled "Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK]," contained in document A/60/C.3/L.48.
In addition, this resolution has also been cosponsored by Bulgaria, Lichtenstein, Israel, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Serbia Montenegro and the Republic of Moldova.
Mr. Chairman, while the European Union welcomes the constructive developments outlined in the special rapporteur's report to the General Assembly, the European Union remains deeply concerned by the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including the continued reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights. These are perpetuated in the absence of due process and rule of law, sanctions on DPRK citizens who have been returned from abroad, and severe restrictions on freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression.
The European Union is also very concerned by the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, its continued refusal to cooperate with or recognize the mandate of the special rapporteur.
This is the first time that a resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK has been tabled at the UN General Assembly. For the past three years, the European Union has tabled a resolution on this issue at the Commission on Human Rights. The most CHR resolution, 2005/11, urged the General Assembly to take up the question of human rights in the DPRK in the absence of any improvement in the human rights situation in the country, and if the government failed to extend cooperation to the special rapporteur.
Mr. Chairman, the continued noncompliance by the DPRK government with a provision of these resolutions requires that the General Assembly now address this issue. We therefore urge member states to support the resolution. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN: ...Does any delegation wish to make a statement in connection with the draft resolution? I give the floor to the distinguished representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The position of the state accused of human rights violations in this case the DPRK

DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA

DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Mr. Chairman, the delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea expresses it's deep concern over the United States and the European Union's misuse of human rights issues for their political purposes against developing small and weak countries and categorically rejects the draft A/C.3/60/L.48 submitted by the EU.
The EU's draft reveals itself that the EU pursues interference in internal affairs and regime change of the DPRK taking a ride in the US hostile policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK.
First, I'd like to draw the attention of the member states to the fact that the draft resolution is based on false truth and fabrications. Last year, the US Congress adopted the North Korean Human Rights Act and according to it, it allocates every year tens of millions to the anti-DPRK maneuverings.
The draft carries fabrications and distortions all concocted by the US, Japan and certain EU countries and their ill-minded NGOs in this regard of realities in our country.
The special rapporteur wearing the name of the United Nations is said to have met in South Korea with organizations which assist North Korean defectors. They are the very organizations that engage in luring, abducting, brainwashing and converting our citizens into defectors. They are paid according to how many they bring and what sort of and how many stories they cook.
Now the western world is launching all out human rights offensive against the DPRK by mobilizing TV networks and newspapers to propagate widely the stories fabricated by them.
And we are surprised at the rapporteur's meeting with criminal organizations to discuss human rights and have come to the conclusion that we are right to have not -- to have decided not to deal with him.
The delegation of the DPRK understands that human rights -- human trafficking clearly constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and human rights. Second, the draft resolution is intended to interfere in the internal affairs of the DPRK.
Recently, the government of the DPRK has taken the decision not to receive this humanitarian assistance from next year given that the food situation has been notably improved. This would be helpful in reducing the burden of the international community.
However, the EU in its draft resolution expressed the concern on the decision of my government and urged it to continue to accept assistance and ensure the international organization's free and unrestricted access to all parts of the DPRK.
It is up to the DPRK not the EU to decide whether to receive the assistance or not. The EU and United States and Japan refuse time and again humanitarian aids of food on political preconditions when we were in urgent need of them. Now they are pressing us to receive aid when we declare that we stand on our own feet.
And it raises suspicion in our minds on whether they truly care for the humanitarian assistance to the DPRK or pursue any hidden, ill-minded purpose in this regard. We cannot but recall the incidence in Iraq in the mid-90s when the US and UK used UNSCOM for spying and military plots, as a member of the weapons of mass destruction team disclosed.
Third, the draft is a typical manifestation of politicization, double standard and selectivity of human rights issues. Even at this moment we are debating human rights issues in this room, the United States and the United Kingdom troops ruthlessly target innocent civilians and declare victory over insurgents. And the US CIA is operating secret prisons across the world where terror suspects are subjected to secret deaths by beastly tortures.
The United States officially declares that killings of civilians, use of forbidden weapons and torture are all legitimate and justified in the anti-terror war while boasting of its compassion on the woes of the peoples in those countries it detests.
We know very well what techniques, what guts United States has to massacre people because we experienced Korean war. It means that it does not care for killings of civilians other than United States citizens.
And the EU keeps silent of these de facto realities but takes issue of human rights in developing countries. Is it really meaning to protect and promote human rights, or just attempting to cover up their own human rights violations?
We still vividly remember that the EU has rejected last April the draft resolution tabled by Cuba on human rights issues of detainees in Guantanamo. This is a clear demonstration of double standard in EU's advocacy for human rights.
Mr. Chairman, human rights of individual countries are protected and promoted not by the United States or the European Union, but by the respective governments in conformity with their economic and social development, and in accordance with their history, culture and tradition.
The government of the DPRK stands consistent in its position that human rights constitutes sovereignty, and human rights that are not guaranteed by state sovereignty are nothing but a fiction. This is a serious historical lessons that the people of the DPRK has learned from 40 years of Japanese colonial rule and 60 years of sanctions and blockade under national divisions imposed by outside forces.
The delegation of the DPRK regards all draft resolutions tabled by the US and the EU against the developing countries at the third committee of current General Assembly session constitute a culmination of politicization, double standard and selectivity in the field of human rights.
Faced with the undeniable reality of today, that the US and UK are arbitrarily branding those countries who do not share their values as human rights violators, while trampling down democracy and enforcing tyranny in the world. The delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea raises the question of whether or not there exists principles of justice and equity in the international relations, and appeal to the conscience of the world to give just and fair answer to it. Thank you.

The position of states against country-specific human rights resolutions (except in the case of Israel), the friends of the DPRK etc.: Barbados, Cuba, Venezuela, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Belarus, Sudan, Turmenistan, Zimbabwe, Egypt

CHAIRMAN: ...Any other delegations wishing to make a statement now. I give the floor to Barbados.

BARBADOS

BARBADOS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I take the floor to explain my position -- my delegation's position on the draft resolution A/C.3/60/L.48. Mr. Chairman, as a country with a paradoxical history of slavery and colonialism, having existed alongside a tradition of parliamentary democracy going back over 300 years, Barbados attaches the highest importance to the issue of human rights democracy, both in our domestic and our foreign policy.
As such, Barbados is deeply concerned that increasingly political and derisive nature of the human rights debate in the third committee, and particularly the debates surrounding the table in country-specific resolutions, we believe that the specific targeting of certain countries is not helpful or productive, especially as all of our countries continue to strive to achieve an unblemished record for human rights and good governance.
In addition, we view it as particularly confrontational and unhelpful at a time when member states are engaged in discussing the reform of UN human rights machinery, and specifically the establishment of the Human Rights Council, some states have seen fit to target these resolutions targeting certain countries.
Barbados's principled and consistent position on this issue led us at the 59th session to either abstain on country-specific resolutions or to support no action motions. Today again we will choose to abstain on this resolution.
Mr. Chairman, however, I must emphasize here that our voting on these resolutions should not be misconstrued as a lack of concern for human rights. Indeed, the opposite can only be true. Our position on voting has been based on the principle of not singling out certain countries, rather than on the human rights situations in specific states.
We are gravely concerned about the pattern of human rights abuses in many parts of the world, and urge all states to cooperate and engage in dialogue to address these issues.

CHAIRMAN: ...Does any delegation wish to make a statement in explanation of vote before the vote? I give the floor to Venezuela.

VENEZUELA

VENEZUELA: Thank you very much Chairman. On behalf of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, I would like to say that the resolutions that condemn a specific country, rather than stimulating, promoting human rights, and promoting understanding between peoples, rather they create confrontation between member states of the organization by condemning and by making statements that rather encourage the use of force and the right of the strongest. And also it leads to arbitrary approach and injustice.
Now in this particular case with regard to this specific resolution, the rapporteur on human rights has made a report which I believe is not very credible in the view of our delegation. It's based on information that was obtained in a specific way and not according to convincing criteria. So for us, the draft resolution before us is a clear exploitation of objectives which have nothing to do with the promotion of human rights, and my delegation will vote against this draft resolution because we do not accept a policy of selective condemnation which is used by some states in this third committee.
If we wish to submit text of this nature, then we need to have text which encourage dialogue between states and not text which aim to implement sanctions or to have selective condemnations. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN: ...I now give the floor to the distinguished representative of Cuba.

CUBA

CUBA: Thank you Chairman. Now with regard to this draft resolution, I would like to say that Cuba will also vote against this draft resolution. It does not encourage international cooperation on human rights, and this is -- it's clear to all of us here that it is a tool of political manipulation. It's selective, partial and not objective.
Such draft resolutions indicate that constructive approaches based on dialogue, respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity of states are not being encouraged by the European Union. Quite on the contrary, these politicized approaches are discrediting the Commission on Human Rights, and it could lead to the failure of the third committee. For this reason, I repeat once again that Cuba will vote against this draft resolution. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN (Vice-Chair): Thank you. Next, I recognize the distinguished representative of Malaysia.

MALAYSIA

MALAYSIA: Thank you Madame Chairperson. Madame Chairperson, Malaysia not only does not support but is strongly opposed to resolutions targeting specific countries, be it a developing or developed country and whether it practices the various forms of democracy or other forms of government. Madam Chair, Malaysia has long called for a non-confrontational approach to the issue of human rights, calling instead for constructive dialogue and cooperation.
However, we have to believe some states continue to table resolutions targeting specific countries, sometimes even ignoring positive developments that have taken place.
Increasingly, more and more states are rejecting the validity of country-specific resolutions and the culture of naming and shaming, which has polarized the discussions within the Commission of Human Rights. My delegation calls on the states tabling such initiatives to reconsider their actions and the possible consequences it may have on a deliberative nature and value of the work of the third committee.
The non-aligned movement during the 13th summit held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during it's 14th ministerial conference held in Durban, South Africa had emphasized that human rights issues must be addressed within the global context through a constructive, dialogue-based approach with objectivity, respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of the state, impartiality, non-selectivity and transparency as the guiding principles, taking into account the political, historical, social, religious and cultural characteristics of each country.
Exploitation of human rights for political purposes, including selective targeting of individual countries for extraneous considerations which is contrary to the principles and purposes of the United Nations charter should be excluded.
It is with these principles in mind that Malaysia will vote against the resolution placed before the committee today, and all draft resolutions targeting specific countries, unless requested otherwise by the immediate country concern. Thank you Madam Chair.

MADAM CHAIR: I next recognize the distinguished representative of Indonesia.

INDONESIA

INDONESIA: Thank you Madam Chairperson. My delegation very much regrets the witness that this committee has to again this year confront with this unfortunate situation associated with the tabling of a draft resolution on a country-specific situation.
In our view, it is important to reflect deeply on these issues because one of the very reasons for the ongoing efforts for the reform of the UN human rights machinery is it is ... to address the politicization of its work, and it relates to the country-specific resolutions.
This challenge emphasizes the need for the United Nations human rights machinery, including the third committee, to devise new ways of addressing the new human rights situation in a given country in a more constructive and productive manner.
Madam Chairperson, Indonesia fully supports the international and therefore [inaudible] determinations to improve the human rights situations in all countries, including in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In this regard, we encourage Democratic People's Republic of Korea to pay due attention to the legitimate concern being expressed by the international community, especially the matter related to the abductions of foreigners.
What we cannot support is the tabling of a draft resolution such as the one before us. It is confrontational in nature, and therefore obviously counterproductive. What we would like to see in the protection and promotion of human rights and the ... and recommended highly is a constructive approach based on dialogue and cooperation.
I would like to point out a very significant element of this kind of cooperation, technical assistance and advisory services. While a resolution such as the draft before us still accusations and counter-accusations, the provision of technical assistant and advisory ... that will be welcomed by any country.
To that extent, we strongly urge all those concerned with improving the human rights situation in any country to seek practical and feasible ways that will be acceptable to the targeted countries.
Consequently, as we cannot support the ... that have been adopted by the draft resolutions, we will be voting against it. I thank you Madam Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: ...I now give the floor to the distinguished representative of China.

CHINA

CHINA: Thank you Mr. Chairman. The Chinese delegation expresses a strong sense of regret over draft resolution L.48 tabled by the EU. Over the years, under the leadership of the government, the people of DPRK have made encouraging progress in building a -- building their country, improving north/south relationships and the developing foreign relations through self reliance and hard work.
DPRK has also engaged in several rounds of dialogue of human rights with the EU. With regard to the positive effort on the part of the DPRK government, the right attitude of this committee should have been encouragement and recognition, rather than finger-pointing and criticism.
The Chinese government is always opposed to politicizing the question of human rights and using country-specific draft resolutions of human rights as opportunities to apply the practice of naming and shaming to developing countries.
L.48 represents a typical example of politicizing the question of human rights. It will not help improve the human rights situation for the people of DPRK. Rather, it will create an atmosphere of confrontation in this committee. In light of this, the Chinese delegation will vote against draft resolution L.48. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: ...I now give the floor to the distinguished representative of Belarus.

BELARUS

BELARUS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, the Republic of Belarus consistently opposed the practice of country-specific resolutions. We are convinced that such resolutions are counterproductive and do not serve the promotion and protection of human rights. We believe that ... in the field of human rights protection should be based on mutual respect and constructive dialogue between sovereign states.
We are convinced that country-specific resolutions induce unnecessary divisions within the international community and lead to further politicization of the work of the third committee.
Having said that, the delegation of Belarus will vote decisively against the draft resolution L.48. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: ...I now give the floor to the distinguished representative of Sudan.

SUDAN

SUDAN: Thank you Chairman. The delegation of my country would like to stress the importance for the respect, protection and promotion for all human rights throughout the world, and we assert our commitment to work with, and cooperate with the international community and the related mechanism to this end.
Mr. Chairman, we are following with great interest the efforts that are being made by the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to improve the economic and social situation for its people, and also to protect human rights. These efforts should be encouraged and supported by the international community.
Furthermore, and based on our sacred principles, we refuse any attempt to target developing countries and invoke human rights in order to promote a specific political agenda. And irrespective of the content of the draft resolution L.48 on the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the very fact of submitting draft resolutions which target a specific country is politicization, selectivity and double standards. This is one of the negative characteristics of the Human Rights Commission.
Now while we are undertaking consultations and discussions on the Human Rights Council, some countries are insisting on targeting developing countries and to make human rights a means to achieving other objectives and specific interests, rather than engaging in constructive dialogue and cooperation as means for promoting and strengthening human rights.
Mr. Chairman, we call upon the cosponsors of this draft resolution to reassert their commitments to deal with human rights in a transparent way and not on a selective basis, and to avoid a situation in this committee, a situation which we see in the capitals of some of those cosponsors. These are flagrant violations of the rights of immigrants, their cultural, social and political rights, and this is a proof of the selectivity that we referred to on the part of these countries.
As the previous speakers have said, we will vote against this draft resolution that is submitted to us this morning. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN: ...I give the floor to the distinguished representative of Turkmenistan.

TURKMENISTAN

TURKMENISTAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. As a member of ... and the Organization of Islamic Conference, we are guided by the principles of engagement, cooperation and non-selectivity in addressing the issues of human rights. We are against selective targeting of developing countries, especially when sponsors of such resolutions themselves are far from being perfect.
This practice based on double standards, political manipulations, undermines trust and progress in advancement of human rights, and also leads to extreme politicization of UN human rights machinery.
We believe that only through dialogue, encouragement, cooperation will we be able to assist countries in their advancement, including in the area of human rights. For these reasons, we will vote against this resolution. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: ...I now give the floor to the distinguished representative of Zimbabwe.

ZIMBABWE

ZIMBABWE: Thank you Mr. Chairman. My delegation has on many occasions expressed its concern with an approach to human rights issues that is characterized by selectivity and double standards. We regret the tendency to abuse the human rights debate for political purposes. We do not believe resolutions such as the one before us now help advance the human rights agenda. My delegation will therefore vote against this resolution. I thank you.

CHAIRMAN: ...I now give the floor to the distinguished representative of Egypt.

EGYPT

EGYPT: Thank you Chairman. The position of Egypt has been firm and consistent. It is based on a single approach with regard to human rights. These resolutions which target specific countries -- in such a case, we vote against such draft resolutions that target individual countries. This is irrespective of certain objective or thematic aspects and this is for the following reasons. These resolutions politicize the issue of human rights and they enshrine a policy of selectivity and double standards, nor do they allow us to deal with these issues in an objective way and on the basis of dialogue and cooperation between concerned countries in order to promote and strengthen human rights, rather than having the confrontational situation with these countries.
These resolutions are not based on negotiations or on -- nor on the system of multilateral cooperation, nor are such resolutions submitted to consultations with all the countries, the member states of the United Nations and it's also in contradiction with the efforts that aim to enhance cooperation with respect to human rights issues, and particularly for establishing the Human Rights Council in line with the outcome document of September.
If we open the door for such resolutions to be adopted for specific countries, we could start to impose specific ways of assessing the respect for human rights in other regions without taking account of the religious, cultural and historic characteristics of those regions. And these -- and these are core to human rights in all regions of the world.
And through the diversity, they ensure a complementarity that we must maintain since this is the very pillar of dialogue between civilizations and between cultures, and should -- rather than confrontation between those civilizations and cultures. Thank you Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: ...We shall proceed to the vote. All those in favor, please press the green button. All those against, please press the red button. All those abstaining, please press the yellow button. Please kindly check to make sure your vote is properly recorded. Okay, please lock the machine. The result of the vote is as follows. ...The result of the vote is as follows. In favor, 84, against 22, abstentions 62. The draft resolution is adopted.