UN General Assembly Condemns Human Rights Violations in Burma, North Korea
Margaret Besheer | United Nations 19 November 2009
The U.N. General Assembly has expressed its grave concern about on-going human rights violations in Burma and North Korea. In a vote Thursday evening, the assembly adopted resolutions urging both states to end systematic and widespread abuses against their citizens.
The separate resolutions were adopted in the General Assembly committee responsible for social, humanitarian and cultural affairs - known as the Third Committee.
With 180 of the GA's 192 members voting, the North Korea resolution was adopted with 97 countries in favor, 19 against and 65 abstentions.
Many of the abstentions and 'no' votes were cast by member states that said they are opposed to resolutions that single out specific countries for censure. Others said they believe the right place for discussing human rights is in Geneva at the Human Rights Council.
But a Swedish diplomat, speaking on behalf of the European Union, which co-sponsored the resolution, said the measure is necessary because similar resolutions asking North Korea to end human rights abuses have gone unheeded for the last four years.
"We strongly urge the government to immediately put an end to the human rights violations in the country," he said. "The General Assembly cannot ignore the suffering of the people of the DPRK. We must assume our responsibility and give voice to them. If we do not react, the political signal that we give would be that our concerns have decreased or that the situation has improved - which is not the case."
The non-binding resolution expresses "very serious concern" at continuing reports of "systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights," including torture, public executions, collective punishment, and the imposition of the death penalty for political and religious reasons.
North Korea's deputy U.N. Ambassador Pak Tok Hun categorically rejected the resolution, saying it was a U.S. initiative intended to destroy North Korea.
"The draft resolution is nothing more than a document of political conspiracy of hostile forces, to put the veil of a unanimous message of the international community on the U.S.-led human rights campaign against the DPRK in a bid to deny and obliterate the state and social system of the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea," said Pak Tok Hun.
He said that it would be "futile" to expect any outcome from the resolution, because North Korea would remain "invincible forever".
The General Assembly committee also adopted a resolution on human rights abuses in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar. Of the 183 countries voting, 92 were in favor of the measure, 26 were against and 65 abstained.
Myanmar's ambassador, Than Swe, said if western countries are truly concerned about human rights in his country or any other they should adopt a cooperative approach, instead of a resolution that he called "out of step with the times we live in."
The resolution expresses the General Assembly's "grave concern" over the recent trial, conviction and sentencing of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her return to house arrest. It calls for her immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of the more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma. It also urges the military regime to ensure the necessary steps toward free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections next year.
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