Monday, 22 November 2010 19:52
Chittagong, Bangladesh: A United Nations General Assembly rights committee condemned human rights violations by Burma’s ruling military junta on November 18, according to an Assembly report.
A resolution issued by the committee said it “strongly condemns the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Burma (Myanmar).”
The General Assembly’s human rights committee urged Burma’s military junta to follow up by releasing all political prisoners, “currently estimated at more than 2,100.”
The UN Security Council also met Thursday, behind closed doors, for a briefing by Vijay Nambiar, the secretary-general’s special envoy to Burma.
The General Assembly passed a similar resolution on Burma (Myanmar) last year. This year’s document expresses “regret” that last year’s was ignored.
The vote on Burma (Myanmar) was 96 in favor with 28 against and 60 abstentions. Among those voting against, in addition to Burma, were Algeria, Cambodia, China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Egypt, India and Iran.
Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch’s UN advocacy director, called for a commission of inquiry to look into possible crimes against humanity by the military regime as a way to give teeth to the resolution.
“Such a commission …would make military commanders of all sides think twice before committing further atrocities,” he said.
A key UN committee strongly condemned human rights violations in Burma (Myanmar) and sharply criticized the country’s first election in 20 years for restricting opposition parties and candidates, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to an Associated Press report.
The draft strongly regretted that the government did not hold free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections, and called on the government to lift restrictions on the freedom of assembly, association, movement and freedom of expression, including for free and independent media, and ending the use of censorship.
The representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union said, “The resolution was an important part of international engagement with Myanmar regarding human rights. It was a matter of deep regret that, despite calls from the international community, steps had not been taken by the government to ensure free, fair and inclusive elections on 7 November. There had been a number of irregularities. Without progress on human rights, there could not be reconciliation in Myanmar. Regular discussions had taken place with the country concerned, and parts of the text were revised accordingly. A consensual approach would have been preferred, but such an outcome could not be achieved.”
Myanmar’s UN Ambassador Than Swe defended the election, which is part of the government’s roadmap to democracy, and told the committee “the resolution has no moral authority.”
Than Swe said that the draft was seriously flawed in both substance and procedure, describing it as totally unbalanced and unacceptable, and based on hearsay and allegations from disparate groups opposed to the government and from remnants of insurgents.
He added that Myanmar had made progress on a number of fronts over the past two decades; peace and stability now prevailed in almost all corners of the country.
“The general election on 7 November had taken place smoothly and peacefully, with no reports of violence. The majority of eligible voters had turned out to elect representatives of their own choice. The election had been acknowledged by Myanmar’s neighbors and friendly countries as a step forward in the implementation of its seven-step roadmap to democracy,” the representative of Myanmar said.
“Myanmar was now in the final stages of its transformation into a democratic state; immoral and unjust pressure, as well as naming and blaming, would only be a disservice. It was unreasonable to turn a blind eye to developments and to put forward such an intrusive resolution that infringed on Myanmar’s sovereignty. The draft was essentially a Western-sponsored resolution that obviously attempted to interfere in the internal affairs of a developing country. It did not represent the views of all Member countries. A recorded vote was requested,” the representative of Myanmar said.
But Philippe Bolopion, UN advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said the vote “should make clear to the Burmese regime that most of the world saw through its sham election and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, cynically designed to divert attention from continued military rule” and continued detention of political prisoners.
Draft resolutions addressing human rights situations in two other countries, Iran and the Democratic people’s Republic of Korea, were also approved by the committee, amid a barrage of objections by many delegations, which maintained that the freshly constituted Human Rights Council was the correct forum to address such concerns.
Several delegations, mindful of the fact that all three drafts had been initiatives of developed countries, protested that the texts also represented an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Member States, which was contrary to the principles set out in the United Nations Charter and were politically motivated with no bearing on or real interest in human rights.
The draft would request the secretary-general to continue to provide his good offices and to pursue his discussions on the situation of human rights, the transition to democracy and the national reconciliation process with the government and the people of Burma; to give all necessary assistance to enable the Special Adviser and the Special Rapporteur to discharge their mandates fully and effectively; and to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-sixth session, as well as to the Human Rights Council, on progress made.
Additionally, it would decide to review progress of the implementation of the present resolution when continuing the consideration of the question at its sixty-sixth session, on the basis of the reports of the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur.
The representative of New Zealand, on the other hand, said that the Assembly had a mandate to consider human rights situations; it had adopted such resolutions for more than 30 years, and countries that had been subjects of such resolutions had since become strong defenders of human rights.
The representative of China voiced opposition to country-specific resolutions aimed at developing countries; her counterpart from Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Committee should be a forum for dialogue, not criticism.
The representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, said the draft was an urgent appeal from the international community to the government of Burma to show full respect for the human rights of its people. The human rights situation had deteriorated since the last time the Assembly considered the issue in Burma, and although some positive steps had been taken by the government recently, the Assembly could not remain silent on the issue.
Burma’s representative said the vote had demonstrated the divisive nature of country-specific resolutions. He said his country would reject the resolution “and will not be bound by it.”